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Opening the Black Box: Structural Factor Models versus Structural VARs

  • Forni, Mario
  • Lippi, Marco
  • Reichlin, Lucrezia

In this Paper we study identification in dynamic factor models and argue that factor models are better suited than VARs to provide a structural representation of the macroeconomy. Factor models distinguish measurement errors and other idiosyncratic disturbances from structural macroeconomic shocks. As a consequence, the number of structural shocks is no longer equal to the number of variables included in the information set. In practice, the number of structural shocks turns out to be small, so that only a few restrictions are needed to reach identification. Economic interpretation is then easier. On the other hand, with factor models we can handle much larger information sets - including virtually all existing macroeconomic information. This solves the problems of superior information and fundamentality and enables us to analyse the effects of the shocks on all macroeconomic variables. In the empirical illustration we study a set of 89 US macroeconomic time series, including the series analysed in the seminal paper of King et al. (1991). We find that the system of impulse response functions of these series is non-fundamental and therefore cannot be estimated with a VAR. Moreover, unlike in King et al. (1991), the impulse response functions of the permanent shock are monotonic and therefore more credible if the permanent shock is interpreted as technical change.

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Paper provided by C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers in its series CEPR Discussion Papers with number 4133.

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Date of creation: Dec 2003
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Handle: RePEc:cpr:ceprdp:4133
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  1. Forni, Mario & Lippi, Marco, 2001. "The Generalized Dynamic Factor Model: Representation Theory," Econometric Theory, Cambridge University Press, vol. 17(06), pages 1113-1141, December.
  2. Faust, Jon, 1998. "The robustness of identified VAR conclusions about money," Carnegie-Rochester Conference Series on Public Policy, Elsevier, vol. 49(1), pages 207-244, December.
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  4. Mario Forni & Lucrezia Reichlin, 1996. "Dynamic common factors in large cross-sections," ULB Institutional Repository 2013/10149, ULB -- Universite Libre de Bruxelles.
  5. Mario Forni & Marc Hallin & Marco Lippi & Lucrezia Reichlin, 2003. "The Generalized Dynamic Factor Model. One-Sided Estimation and Forecasting," LEM Papers Series 2003/13, Laboratory of Economics and Management (LEM), Sant'Anna School of Advanced Studies, Pisa, Italy.
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  9. Giannone, Domenico & Reichlin, Lucrezia & Sala, Luca, 2006. "VARs, common factors and the empirical validation of equilibrium business cycle models," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 132(1), pages 257-279, May.
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  13. Forni, Mario & Reichlin, Lucrezia, 2001. "Federal policies and local economies: Europe and the US," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 45(1), pages 109-134, January.
  14. Giannone, Domenico & Reichlin, Lucrezia & Sala, Luca, 2002. "Tracking Greenspan: Systematic and Unsystematic Monetary Policy Revisited," CEPR Discussion Papers 3550, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  15. John H. Cochrane, 1995. "What do the VARs Mean?: Measuring the Output Effects of Monetary Policy," NBER Working Papers 5154, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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  17. Stock, James H & Watson, Mark W, 2002. "Macroeconomic Forecasting Using Diffusion Indexes," Journal of Business & Economic Statistics, American Statistical Association, vol. 20(2), pages 147-62, April.
  18. Granger, C. W. J., 1987. "Implications of Aggregation with Common Factors," Econometric Theory, Cambridge University Press, vol. 3(02), pages 208-222, April.
  19. Mario Forni & Marc Hallin & Marco Lippi & Lucrezia Reichlin, 2000. "The Generalized Dynamic-Factor Model: Identification And Estimation," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 82(4), pages 540-554, November.
  20. Eric M. Leeper & Christopher A. Sims & Tao Zha, 1996. "What Does Monetary Policy Do?," Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Economic Studies Program, The Brookings Institution, vol. 27(2), pages 1-78.
  21. Forni, Mario & Hallin, Marc & Lippi, Marco & Reichlin, Lucrezia, 2004. "The generalized dynamic factor model consistency and rates," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 119(2), pages 231-255, April.
  22. Lawrence J. Christiano & Martin Eichenbaum & Charles L. Evans, 1997. "Monetary policy shocks: what have we learned and to what end?," Working Paper Series, Macroeconomic Issues WP-97-18, Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago.
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  24. Marco Lippi & Lucrezia Reichlin, 1993. "The dynamic effects of aggregate demand and supply disturbances: comment," ULB Institutional Repository 2013/10159, ULB -- Universite Libre de Bruxelles.
  25. Forni, Mario & Reichlin, Lucrezia, 1998. "Let's Get Real: A Factor Analytical Approach to Disaggregated Business Cycle Dynamics," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 65(3), pages 453-73, July.
  26. Connor, Gregory & Korajczyk, Robert A., 1988. "Risk and return in an equilibrium APT : Application of a new test methodology," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 21(2), pages 255-289, September.
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  31. Lutz Kilian, 1998. "Small-Sample Confidence Intervals For Impulse Response Functions," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 80(2), pages 218-230, May.
  32. Forni, Mario & Lippi, Marco, 1997. "Aggregation and the Microfoundations of Dynamic Macroeconomics," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, number 9780198288008.
  33. Jon Faust, 1998. "The robustness of identified VAR conclusions about money," International Finance Discussion Papers 610, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.).
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