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What predicts US recessions?

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  • Liu, Weiling
  • Moench, Emanuel

Abstract

We reassess the in- and out-of-sample predictability of US recessions at horizons of three months to two years ahead for a large number of previously proposed leading indicator variables, using the Treasury term spread as a benchmark. We estimate both univariate and multivariate probit models, and evaluate the relative model performance based on the receiver operating characteristic (ROC) curve. At the three- and six-month-ahead horizons, various alternative predictor variables increase the accuracy of recession forecasts significantly relative to the term spread, with the annual return on the S&P500 index providing the strongest improvement. While the Treasury term spread is more difficult to outperform systematically at longer horizons, manufacturers’ new orders of capital goods and balances in Broker-Dealer margin accounts increase the precision of recession predictions significantly at horizons of more than one year.

Suggested Citation

  • Liu, Weiling & Moench, Emanuel, 2016. "What predicts US recessions?," International Journal of Forecasting, Elsevier, vol. 32(4), pages 1138-1150.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:intfor:v:32:y:2016:i:4:p:1138-1150
    DOI: 10.1016/j.ijforecast.2016.02.007
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    More about this item

    Keywords

    Recession predictability; ROC; Term spread; Leading indicators;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • C52 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Econometric Modeling - - - Model Evaluation, Validation, and Selection
    • C53 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Econometric Modeling - - - Forecasting and Prediction Models; Simulation Methods
    • E32 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Prices, Business Fluctuations, and Cycles - - - Business Fluctuations; Cycles
    • E37 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Prices, Business Fluctuations, and Cycles - - - Forecasting and Simulation: Models and Applications

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