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Why Agnostic Sign Restrictions Are Not Enough: Understanding the Dynamics of Oil Market VAR Models


  • Kilian, Lutz
  • Murphy, Daniel P


Sign restrictions on the responses generated by structural vector autoregressive models have been proposed as an alternative approach to the use of exclusion restrictions on the impact multiplier matrix. In recent years such models have been increasingly used to identify demand and supply shocks in the market for crude oil. We demonstrate that sign restrictions alone are insufficient to infer the responses of the real price of oil to such shocks. Moreover, the conventional assumption that all admissible models are equally likely is routinely violated in oil market models, calling into question the use of median responses to characterize the responses to structural shocks. When combining sign restrictions with additional empirically plausible bounds on the magnitude of the short-run oil supply elasticity and on the impact response of real activity, however, it is possible to reduce the set of admissible model solutions to a small number of qualitatively similar estimates. The resulting model estimates are broadly consistent with earlier results regarding the relative importance of demand and supply shocks for the real price of oil based on structural VAR models identified by exclusion restrictions, but imply very different dynamics from the median responses in VAR models based on sign restrictions only.

Suggested Citation

  • Kilian, Lutz & Murphy, Daniel P, 2009. "Why Agnostic Sign Restrictions Are Not Enough: Understanding the Dynamics of Oil Market VAR Models," CEPR Discussion Papers 7471, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  • Handle: RePEc:cpr:ceprdp:7471

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Christiane Baumeister & Gert Peersman, 2013. "Time-Varying Effects of Oil Supply Shocks on the US Economy," American Economic Journal: Macroeconomics, American Economic Association, vol. 5(4), pages 1-28, October.
    2. Kilian, Lutz & Rebucci, Alessandro & Spatafora, Nikola, 2009. "Oil shocks and external balances," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 77(2), pages 181-194, April.
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    More about this item


    Demand shocks; Identification; Median response; Oil market; Sign restriction; Supply shocks; Vector autoregression;

    JEL classification:

    • C68 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Mathematical Methods; Programming Models; Mathematical and Simulation Modeling - - - Computable General Equilibrium Models
    • E31 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Prices, Business Fluctuations, and Cycles - - - Price Level; Inflation; Deflation
    • E32 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Prices, Business Fluctuations, and Cycles - - - Business Fluctuations; Cycles
    • Q43 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Energy - - - Energy and the Macroeconomy

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