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Disecting the Cycle: A Methodological Investigation

  • Don Harding

    (Melbourne Institute)

  • Adrian Pagan

    (Australian National University)

Macroeconomics has a long tradition of inspecting and interpreting patterns in graphs of aggregate data. However, the move towards more precise quantification of macroeconomic phenomena has seen academics shift away from a study of turning points, which are a natural and obvious way of summarizing business cycles, towards measures of co-movement in detrended series. This shift arise from several developments, but an important one was the belief among academics that Burns and Mitchell's methods lacked the statistical basis and, hence, the precision required in modern macroeconomics. We adopt the older perspective that business cycles are to be defined in terms of the turning points in the level of economic activity. We show that such turning points can be associated with a well defined sequence of outcomes and can therefore be precisely analyzed. In turn this enables us to explore how various parametric models of aggregate output generate a cycle through the interaction of trend movements in activity with the volatility and serial correlation in growth rates. One of the strongest points in the rhetoric of modern business cycle theory is that trend and cycles should not be divorced. Consequently, any definition of the business cycle in terms of the co-movement of detrended data has to find the task of integration a difficult one. In contrast, we show that a return to the older tradition of studying the classical cycle in the level of economic activity produces a natural interpretation of the origin of the cycle in terms of the interaction of trend and the second moments of growth rates. This seems a critical advantage for the approach taken in this paper. An important issue that has also been debated in the literature is whether non-linear models are required to make a business cycle. Using the techniques developed in this paper we dissect the cycle of a number of countries and find little evidence that non-linearities, of the type investigated in the literature, are important in accounting for the broad features of the average cycle.

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Paper provided by Econometric Society in its series Econometric Society World Congress 2000 Contributed Papers with number 1164.

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Date of creation: 01 Aug 2000
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Handle: RePEc:ecm:wc2000:1164
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  1. Don Harding & Adrian Pagan, 1999. "Knowing the Cycle," Melbourne Institute Working Paper Series wp1999n12, Melbourne Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research, The University of Melbourne.
  2. King, Robert G. & Plosser, Charles I., 1994. "Real business cycles and the test of the Adelmans," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 33(2), pages 405-438, April.
  3. Pagan, Adrian, 1997. "Policy, Theory, and the Cycle," Oxford Review of Economic Policy, Oxford University Press, vol. 13(3), pages 19-33, Autumn.
  4. Diebold, Francis X & Rudebusch, Glenn D, 1996. "Measuring Business Cycles: A Modern Perspective," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 78(1), pages 67-77, February.
  5. Timothy Cogley & James M. Nason, 1993. "Output dynamics in real business cycle models," Working Papers in Applied Economic Theory 93-10, Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco.
  6. Allan Timmermann, 1999. "Moments of Markov Switching Models," FMG Discussion Papers dp323, Financial Markets Group.
  7. Canova, Fabio, 1998. "Detrending and business cycle facts," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 41(3), pages 475-512, May.
  8. Burnside, Craig, 1998. "Detrending and business cycle facts: A comment," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 41(3), pages 513-532, May.
  9. Wecker, William E, 1979. "Predicting the Turning Points of a Time Series," The Journal of Business, University of Chicago Press, vol. 52(1), pages 35-50, January.
  10. Gerhard Bry & Charlotte Boschan, 1971. "Cyclical Analysis of Time Series: Selected Procedures and Computer Programs," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number bry_71-1, December.
  11. Lawrence J. Cristiano & Terry J. Fitzgerald, 1998. "The business cycle: it's still a puzzle," Economic Perspectives, Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago, issue Q IV, pages 56-83.
  12. Sichel, Daniel E, 1994. "Inventories and the Three Phases of the Business Cycle," Journal of Business & Economic Statistics, American Statistical Association, vol. 12(3), pages 269-77, July.
  13. Ilse Mintz, 1972. "Dating American Growth Cycles," NBER Chapters, in: Economic Research: Retrospect and Prospect, Volume 1, The Business Cycle Today, pages 39-88 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  14. Harding, Don & Pagan, Adrian, 2006. "Synchronization of cycles," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 132(1), pages 59-79, May.
  15. Canova, Fabio, 1994. "Detrending and turning points," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 38(3-4), pages 614-623, April.
  16. Harding, Don, 1997. "The Definition, Dating and Duration of Cycles," MPRA Paper 3357, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  17. Fabio Canova, 1994. "Does detrending matter for the determination of the reference cycle and the selection of turning points?," Economics Working Papers 113, Department of Economics and Business, Universitat Pompeu Fabra, revised Mar 1995.
  18. Hess, Gregory D & Iwata, Shigeru, 1997. "Measuring and Comparing Business-Cycle Features," Journal of Business & Economic Statistics, American Statistical Association, vol. 15(4), pages 432-44, October.
  19. J. Michael Durland & Thomas H. McCurdy, 1993. "Duration Dependent Transitions in a Markov Model of U.S. GNP Growth," Working Papers 887, Queen's University, Department of Economics.
  20. Finn E. Kydland & Edward C. Prescott, 1990. "Business cycles: real facts and a monetary myth," Quarterly Review, Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis, issue Spr, pages 3-18.
  21. Wen, Yi, 1998. "Can a real business cycle model pass the Watson test?," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 42(1), pages 185-203, June.
  22. Canova, Fabio, 1998. "Detrending and business cycle facts: A user's guide," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 41(3), pages 533-540, May.
  23. Simkins, Scott P., 1994. "Do real business cycle models really exhibit business cycle behavior?," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 33(2), pages 381-404, April.
  24. Lucas, Robert E, Jr, 1980. "Methods and Problems in Business Cycle Theory," Journal of Money, Credit and Banking, Blackwell Publishing, vol. 12(4), pages 696-715, November.
  25. James H. Stock & Mark W. Watson, 1988. "A Probability Model of The Coincident Economic Indicators," NBER Working Papers 2772, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  26. James H. Stock & Mark W. Watson, 1998. "Business Cycle Fluctuations in U.S. Macroeconomic Time Series," NBER Working Papers 6528, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  27. Kim, Kunhong & Buckle, R A & Hall, V B, 1994. "Key Features of New Zealand Business Cycles," The Economic Record, The Economic Society of Australia, vol. 70(208), pages 56-73, March.
  28. Arthur F. Burns & Wesley C. Mitchell, 1946. "Measuring Business Cycles," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number burn46-1, December.
  29. Gerhard Bry & Charlotte Boschan, 1971. "Foreword to "Cyclical Analysis of Time Series: Selected Procedures and Computer Programs"," NBER Chapters, in: Cyclical Analysis of Time Series: Selected Procedures and Computer Programs, pages -1 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  30. Adrian Pagan, 1997. "Towards an Understanding of Some Business Cycle Characteristics," Australian Economic Review, The University of Melbourne, Melbourne Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research, vol. 30(1), pages 1-15.
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