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How Far Can We Forecast? Forecast Content Horizons For Some Important Macroeconomic Time Series

  • John G. Galbraith

    ()

  • Greg Tkacz

    ()

For stationary transformations of variables, there exists a maximum horizon beyond which forecasts can provide no more information about the variable than is present in the unconditional mean. Meteorological forecasts, typically excepting only experimental or exploratory situations, are not reported beyond this horizon; by contrast, little generally-accepted information about such maximum horizons is available for economic variables. In this paper we estimate such content horizons for a variety of economic variables, and compare these with the maximum horizons which we observe reported in a large sample of empirical economic forecasting studies. We find that there are many instances of published studies which provide forecasts exceeding, often by substantial margins, our estimates of the content horizon for the particular variable and frequency. We suggest some simple reporting practices for forecasts that could potentially bring greater transparency to the process of making the interpreting economic forecasts.

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File URL: http://www.mcgill.ca/files/economics/howfarcan.pdf
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Paper provided by McGill University, Department of Economics in its series Departmental Working Papers with number 2006-13.

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Length: 32 pages
Date of creation: Sep 2006
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:mcl:mclwop:2006-13
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  1. Diebold, Francis X & Kilian, Lutz, 2000. "Measuring Predictability: Theory And Macroeconomic Applications," CEPR Discussion Papers 2424, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  2. James H. Stock & Mark W. Watson, 1998. "A Comparison of Linear and Nonlinear Univariate Models for Forecasting Macroeconomic Time Series," NBER Working Papers 6607, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. Galbraith, John W. & KI[#x1e63]Inbay, Turgut, 2005. "Content horizons for conditional variance forecasts," International Journal of Forecasting, Elsevier, vol. 21(2), pages 249-260.
  4. Li Fuchun & Tkacz Greg, 2004. "Combining Forecasts with Nonparametric Kernel Regressions," Studies in Nonlinear Dynamics & Econometrics, De Gruyter, vol. 8(4), pages 1-18, December.
  5. Granger, Clive W. J. & Hyung, Namwon, 2004. "Occasional structural breaks and long memory with an application to the S&P 500 absolute stock returns," Journal of Empirical Finance, Elsevier, vol. 11(3), pages 399-421, June.
  6. Marc Brisson & Bryan Campbell & John Galbraith, 2001. "Forecasting Some Low-Predictability Time Series Using Diffusion Indices," CIRANO Working Papers 2001s-46, CIRANO.
  7. Granger, Clive W J, 1996. "Can We Improve the Perceived Quality of Economic Forecasts?," Journal of Applied Econometrics, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 11(5), pages 455-73, Sept.-Oct.
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