Optimal Probabilistic Forecasts for Counts
Optimal probabilistic forecasts of integer-valued random variables are derived. The optimality is achieved by estimating the forecast distribution nonparametrically over a given broad model class and proving asymptotic efficiency in that setting. The ideas are demonstrated within the context of the integer autoregressive class of models, which is a suitable class for any count data that can be interpreted as a queue, stock, birth and death process or branching process. The theoretical proofs of asymptotic optimality are supplemented by simulation results which demonstrate the overall superiority of the nonparametric method relative to a misspecified parametric maximum likelihood estimator, in large but .nite samples. The method is applied to counts of wage claim benefits, stock market iceberg orders and civilian deaths in Iraq, with bootstrap methods used to quantify sampling variation in the estimated forecast distributions.
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