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The Index of Leading Indicators: "Measurement without Theory," Twenty-Five Years Later


  • Alan J. Auerbach


The index of leading economic indicators first developed by the NBER remains a popular informal forecasting tool in spite of the original criticism that its use represents "measurement without theory. " This paper seeks to evaluate the performance of the index in comparison to alternative time series methods in predicting business cycle behavior. While the actual method of choosing the weights for the twelve series included in the index is essentially unnecessary (because the resulting series is indistinguishable from another with uniform weights) the series itself helps explain business cycle behavior, and outperforms an index with econometrically chosen weights.

Suggested Citation

  • Alan J. Auerbach, 1981. "The Index of Leading Indicators: "Measurement without Theory," Twenty-Five Years Later," NBER Working Papers 0761, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:0761
    Note: EFG

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    References listed on IDEAS

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    2. Cukierman, Alex & Wachtel, Paul, 1979. "Differential Inflationary Expectations and the Variability of the Rate of Inflation: Theory and Evidence," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 69(4), pages 595-609, September.
    3. Michael R. Darby, 1980. "Unanticipated or Actual Changes in Aggregate Demand Variables: A Cross-Country Analysis," NBER Working Papers 0589, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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    7. Robert J. Barro & Mark Rush, 1980. "Unanticipated Money and Economic Activity," NBER Chapters,in: Rational Expectations and Economic Policy, pages 23-73 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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    10. Blinder, Alan S. & Fischer, Stanley, 1981. "Inventories, rational expectations, and the business cycle," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 8(3), pages 277-304.
    11. William Poole, 2001. "Expectations," Review, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, issue Mar, pages 1-10.
    12. Levi, Maurice D & Makin, John H, 1979. "Fisher, Phillips, Friedman and the Measured Impact of Inflation on Interest," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 34(1), pages 35-52, March.
    13. Lucas, Robert Jr., 1972. "Expectations and the neutrality of money," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 4(2), pages 103-124, April.
    14. Haraf, William S., 1978. "Inventories, orders and the persistent effects of monetary shocks," Proceedings, Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, issue 2, pages 63-86.
    15. Mullineaux, Donald J, 1980. "Unemployment, Industrial Production, and Inflation Uncertainty in the United States," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 62(2), pages 163-169, May.
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    Cited by:

    1. João Victor Issler & Hilton Hostalacio Notini & Claudia Fontoura Rodrigues, 2013. "Constructing coincident and leading indices of economic activity for the Brazilian economy," OECD Journal: Journal of Business Cycle Measurement and Analysis, OECD Publishing, Centre for International Research on Economic Tendency Surveys, vol. 2012(2), pages 43-65.
    2. Marcel M., 1990. "Labour market indicators: leading indicators for employment forecasting in developing countries," ILO Working Papers 992788013402676, International Labour Organization.

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