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Do Oil Prices Help Forecast U.S. Real GDP? The Role of Nonlinearities and Asymmetries

  • Kilian, Lutz
  • Vigfusson, Robert J.

There is a long tradition of using oil prices to forecast U.S. real GDP. It has been suggested that the predictive relationship between the price of oil and one-quarter ahead U.S. real GDP is nonlinear in that (1) oil price increases matter only to the extent that they exceed the maximum oil price in recent years and that (2) oil price decreases do not matter at all. We examine, first, whether the evidence of in-sample predictability in support of this view extends to out-of-sample forecasts. Second, we discuss how to extend this forecasting approach to higher horizons. Third, we compare the resulting class of nonlinear models to alternative economically plausible nonlinear specifications and examine which aspect of the model is most useful for forecasting. We show that the asymmetry embodied in commonly used nonlinear transformations of the price of oil is not helpful for out-of-sample forecasting; more robust and more accurate real GDP forecasts are obtained from symmetric nonlinear models based on the three-year net oil price change. Finally, we quantify the extent to which the 2008 recession could have been forecast using the latter class of time-varying threshold models.

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Paper provided by C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers in its series CEPR Discussion Papers with number 8980.

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Date of creation: May 2012
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:cpr:ceprdp:8980
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  1. Edelstein, Paul & Kilian, Lutz, 2009. "How sensitive are consumer expenditures to retail energy prices?," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 56(6), pages 766-779, September.
  2. Mork, Knut Anton, 1989. "Oil and Macroeconomy When Prices Go Up and Down: An Extension of Hamilton's Results," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 97(3), pages 740-44, June.
  3. Inoue, Atsushi & Kilian, Lutz, 2002. "In-sample or out-of-sample tests of predictability: which one should we use?," Working Paper Series 0195, European Central Bank.
  4. Koop, Gary & Pesaran, M. Hashem & Potter, Simon M., 1996. "Impulse response analysis in nonlinear multivariate models," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 74(1), pages 119-147, September.
  5. Lutz Kilian & Robert J. Vigfusson, 2011. "Are the responses of the U.S. economy asymmetric in energy price increases and decreases?," Quantitative Economics, Econometric Society, vol. 2(3), pages 419-453, November.
  6. Francesco Ravazzolo & Philip Rothman, 2013. "Oil and U.S. GDP: A Real‐Time Out‐of‐Sample Examination," Journal of Money, Credit and Banking, Blackwell Publishing, vol. 45(2-3), pages 449-463, 03.
  7. Kilian, Lutz, 2006. "Not All Oil Price Shocks Are Alike: Disentangling Demand and Supply Shocks in the Crude Oil Market," CEPR Discussion Papers 5994, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  8. Lucas W. Davis & Lutz Kilian, 2011. "Estimating the effect of a gasoline tax on carbon emissions," Journal of Applied Econometrics, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 26(7), pages 1187-1214, November.
  9. James D. Hamilton, 2010. "Nonlinearities and the Macroeconomic Effects of Oil Prices," NBER Working Papers 16186, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  10. Clark, Todd E. & McCracken, Michael W., 2012. "In-sample tests of predictive ability: A new approach," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 170(1), pages 1-14.
  11. Christiane Baumeister & Lutz Kilian, 2011. "Real-Time Forecasts of the Real Price of Oil," Journal of Business & Economic Statistics, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 30(2), pages 326-336, September.
  12. Hamilton, James D., 2003. "What is an oil shock?," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 113(2), pages 363-398, April.
  13. Clark, Todd E. & McCracken, Michael W., 2015. "Nested forecast model comparisons: A new approach to testing equal accuracy," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 186(1), pages 160-177.
  14. Marcellino, Massimiliano & Stock, James H. & Watson, Mark W., 2006. "A comparison of direct and iterated multistep AR methods for forecasting macroeconomic time series," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 135(1-2), pages 499-526.
  15. Herrera, Ana María & Lagalo, Latika Gupta & Wada, Tatsuma, 2011. "Oil Price Shocks And Industrial Production: Is The Relationship Linear?," Macroeconomic Dynamics, Cambridge University Press, vol. 15(S3), pages 472-497, November.
  16. Lance Bachmeier & Qi Li & Dandan Liu, 2008. "Should Oil Prices Receive So Much Attention? An Evaluation Of The Predictive Power Of Oil Prices For The U.S. Economy," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 46(4), pages 528-539, October.
  17. Lutz Kilian & Robert J. Vigfusson, 2011. "Nonlinearities in the oil price-output relationship," International Finance Discussion Papers 1013, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.).
  18. Hamilton, James D, 1988. "A Neoclassical Model of Unemployment and the Business Cycle," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 96(3), pages 593-617, June.
  19. Hamilton, James D., 1996. "This is what happened to the oil price-macroeconomy relationship," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 38(2), pages 215-220, October.
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