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Inaccurate regression coefficients in Microsoft Excel 2003: an investigation of Volpi’s “zero bug”

Listed author(s):
  • H.-J. Sun


    (Kyushu Sangyo University)

  • Kaoru Fukuda

    (Kyushu Sangyo University)

  • B. D. McCullough

    (Drexel University)

Registered author(s):

    Abstract Leonardo Volpi found that Excel 2003, rather than report correct coefficients, would sometimes change them to zero. We have investigated this so-called “zero bug” of the linear regression function LINEST(), and have found that the inaccuracy is caused by a non-standard modified back-substitution procedure. The modification, for which we can find no justification in the numerical analysis or statistical literature, uses a logic to control the bug: when certain conditions are met, accurate coefficients are replaced with inaccurate coefficients that may be zeros or nonzeros. Although Excel 2003 is now out of support, it is still in use. We do not know whether the modification is limited to Excel 2003, or whether Microsoft has programmed similar inaccuracies into other functions or other versions of Excel.

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    Article provided by Springer in its journal Computational Statistics.

    Volume (Year): 32 (2017)
    Issue (Month): 4 (December)
    Pages: 1411-1421

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    Handle: RePEc:spr:compst:v:32:y:2017:i:4:d:10.1007_s00180-017-0764-9
    DOI: 10.1007/s00180-017-0764-9
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    1. McCullough, B.D. & Heiser, David A., 2008. "On the accuracy of statistical procedures in Microsoft Excel 2007," Computational Statistics & Data Analysis, Elsevier, vol. 52(10), pages 4570-4578, June.
    2. D. McCullough, B. & Wilson, Berry, 2002. "On the accuracy of statistical procedures in Microsoft Excel 2000 and Excel XP," Computational Statistics & Data Analysis, Elsevier, vol. 40(4), pages 713-721, October.
    3. McCullough, B.D., 2008. "Microsoft Excel's 'Not The Wichmann-Hill' random number generators," Computational Statistics & Data Analysis, Elsevier, vol. 52(10), pages 4587-4593, June.
    4. Sawitzki, Gunther, 1994. "Report on the Numerical Reliability of Data Analysis Systems," Computational Statistics & Data Analysis, Elsevier, vol. 18(2), pages 289-301, September.
    5. McCullough, B.D. & Wilson, Berry, 2005. "On the accuracy of statistical procedures in Microsoft Excel 2003," Computational Statistics & Data Analysis, Elsevier, vol. 49(4), pages 1244-1252, June.
    6. Yalta, A. Talha, 2008. "The accuracy of statistical distributions in Microsoft® Excel 2007," Computational Statistics & Data Analysis, Elsevier, vol. 52(10), pages 4579-4586, June.
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