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Seeing inside the black box: Using diffusion index methodology to construct factor proxies in large scale macroeconomic time series environments

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  • Nii Ayi Armah
  • Norman R. Swanson

Abstract

In economics, common factors are often assumed to underlie the co-movements of a set of macroeconomic variables. For this reason, many authors have used estimated factors in the construction of prediction models. In this paper, we begin by surveying the extant literature on diffusion indexes. We then outline a number of approaches to the selection of factor proxies (observed variables that proxy unobserved estimated factors) using the statistics developed in Bai and Ng (2006a,b). Our approach to factor proxy selection is examined via a small Monte Carlo experiment, where evidence supporting our proposed methodology is presented, and via a large set of prediction experiments using the panel dataset of Stock and Watson (2005). One of our main empirical findings is that our ?smoothed? approaches to factor proxy selection appear to yield predictions that are often superior not only to a benchmark factor model, but also to simple linear time series models which are generally difficult to beat in forecasting competitions. In some sense, by using our approach to predictive factor proxy selection, one is able to open up the ?black box? often associated with factor analysis, and to identify actual variables that can serve as primitive building blocks for (prediction) models of a host of macroeconomic variables, and that can also serve as policy instruments, for example. Our findings suggest that important observable variables include various S&P500 variables, including stock price indices and dividend series; a 1-year Treasury bond rate; various housing activity variables; industrial production; and exchange rates.

Suggested Citation

  • Nii Ayi Armah & Norman R. Swanson, 2008. "Seeing inside the black box: Using diffusion index methodology to construct factor proxies in large scale macroeconomic time series environments," Working Papers 08-25, Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia.
  • Handle: RePEc:fip:fedpwp:08-25
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. Eric Hillebrand & Huiyu Huang & Tae-Hwy Lee & Canlin Li, 2018. "Using the Entire Yield Curve in Forecasting Output and Inflation," Econometrics, MDPI, vol. 6(3), pages 1-27, August.
    2. Kim, Hyun Hak & Swanson, Norman R., 2018. "Mining big data using parsimonious factor, machine learning, variable selection and shrinkage methods," International Journal of Forecasting, Elsevier, vol. 34(2), pages 339-354.
    3. Nii Ayi Armah & Norman Swanson, 2011. "Some variables are more worthy than others: new diffusion index evidence on the monitoring of key economic indicators," Applied Financial Economics, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 21(1-2), pages 43-60.
    4. Norman R. Swanson, 2016. "Comment," Journal of Business & Economic Statistics, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 34(3), pages 348-353, July.
    5. Dahl, Christian M. & Hansen, Henrik & Smidt, John, 2009. "The cyclical component factor model," International Journal of Forecasting, Elsevier, vol. 25(1), pages 119-127.
    6. Kim, Hyun Hak & Swanson, Norman R., 2014. "Forecasting financial and macroeconomic variables using data reduction methods: New empirical evidence," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 178(P2), pages 352-367.
    7. Corradi, Valentina & Swanson, Norman R., 2014. "Testing for structural stability of factor augmented forecasting models," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 182(1), pages 100-118.
    8. Kihwan Kim & Norman Swanson, 2013. "Diffusion Index Model Specification and Estimation Using Mixed Frequency Datasets," Departmental Working Papers 201315, Rutgers University, Department of Economics.
    9. Hyun Hak Kim, 2013. "Forecasting Macroeconomic Variables Using Data Dimension Reduction Methods: The Case of Korea," Working Papers 2013-26, Economic Research Institute, Bank of Korea.

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    Keywords

    Macroeconomics;

    JEL classification:

    • C22 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Single Equation Models; Single Variables - - - Time-Series Models; Dynamic Quantile Regressions; Dynamic Treatment Effect Models; Diffusion Processes

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