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Using common features to understand the behavior of metal-commodity prices and forecast them at different horizons

The objective of this article is to study (understand and forecast) spot metal price levels and changes at monthly, quarterly, and annual horizons. The data to be used consists of metal-commodity prices in a monthly frequency from 1957 to 2012 from the International Financial Statistics of the IMF on individual metal series. We will also employ the (relatively large) list of co-variates used in Welch and Goyal (2008) and in Hong and Yogo (2009) , which are available for download. Regarding short- and long-run comovement, we will apply the techniques and the tests proposed in the common-feature literature to build parsimonious VARs, which possibly entail quasi-structural relationships between different commodity prices and/or between a given commodity price and its potential demand determinants. These parsimonious VARs will be later used as forecasting models to be combined to yield metal-commodity prices optimal forecasts. Regarding out-of-sample forecasts, we will use a variety of models (linear and non-linear, single equation and multivariate) and a variety of co-variates to forecast the returns and prices of metal commodities. With the forecasts of a large number of models (N large) and a large number of time periods (T large), we will apply the techniques put forth by the common-feature literature on forecast combinations. The main contribution of this paper is to understand the short-run dynamics of metal prices. We show theoretically that there must be a positive correlation between metal-price variation and industrial-production variation if metal supply is held fixed in the short run when demand is optimally chosen taking into account optimal production for the industrial sector. This is simply a consequence of the derived-demand model for cost-minimizing firms. Our empirical evidence fully supports this theoretical result, with overwhelming evidence that cycles in metal prices are synchronized with those in industrial production. This evidence is stronger regarding the global economy but holds as well for the U.S. economy to a lesser degree. Regarding forecasting, we show that models incorporating (short-run) commoncycle restrictions perform better than unrestricted models, with an important role for industrial production as a predictor for metal-price variation. Still, in most cases, forecast combination techniques outperform individual models.

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Paper provided by FGV/EPGE Escola Brasileira de Economia e Finanças, Getulio Vargas Foundation (Brazil) in its series Economics Working Papers (Ensaios Economicos da EPGE) with number 735.

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Date of creation: 03 Jun 2013
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Handle: RePEc:fgv:epgewp:735
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