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Calling Recessions in Real Time

  • James D. Hamilton

This paper surveys efforts to automate the dating of business cycle turning points. Doing this on a real time, out-of-sample basis is a bigger challenge than many academics might presume due to factors such as data revisions and changes in economic relationships over time. The paper stresses the value of both simulated real-time analysis-- looking at what the inference of a proposed model would have been using data as they were actually released at the time-- and actual real-time analysis, in which a researcher stakes his or her reputation on publicly using the model to generate out-of-sample, real-time predictions. The immediate publication capabilities of the internet make the latter a realistic option for researchers today, and many are taking advantage of it. The paper reviews a number of approaches to dating business cycle turning points and emphasizes the fundamental trade-off between parsimony-- trying to keep the model as simple and robust as possible-- and making full use of available information. Different approaches have different advantages, and the paper concludes that there may be gains from combining the best features of several different approaches.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 16162.

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Date of creation: Jul 2010
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Publication status: published as Hamilton, James D., 2011. "Calling recessions in real time," International Journal of Forecasting, Elsevier, vol. 27(4), pages 1006-1026, October.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:16162
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  1. James D. Hamilton & Michael T. Owyang, 2009. "The propagation of regional recessions," Working Papers 2009-013, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis.
  2. Hamilton, James D., 1990. "Analysis of time series subject to changes in regime," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 45(1-2), pages 39-70.
  3. Gabriel Perez-Quiros & Margaret M. McConnell, 2000. "Output Fluctuations in the United States: What Has Changed since the Early 1980's?," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 90(5), pages 1464-1476, December.
  4. Heikki Kauppi & Pentti Saikkonen, 2008. "Predicting U.S. Recessions with Dynamic Binary Response Models," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 90(4), pages 777-791, November.
  5. Hamilton, James D, 1989. "A New Approach to the Economic Analysis of Nonstationary Time Series and the Business Cycle," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 57(2), pages 357-84, March.
  6. Chang-Jin Kim & Charles R. Nelson, 1998. "Business Cycle Turning Points, A New Coincident Index, And Tests Of Duration Dependence Based On A Dynamic Factor Model With Regime Switching," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 80(2), pages 188-201, May.
  7. Chauvet, Marcelle, 1998. "An Econometric Characterization of Business Cycle Dynamics with Factor Structure and Regime Switching," International Economic Review, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania and Osaka University Institute of Social and Economic Research Association, vol. 39(4), pages 969-96, November.
  8. Arturo Estrella & Frederic S. Mishkin, 1996. "Predicting U.S. recessions: financial variables as leading indicators," Research Paper 9609, Federal Reserve Bank of New York.
  9. Maximo Camacho & Gabriel Perez-Quiros & Pilar Poncela, 2010. "Green shoots in the euro area. A real time measure," Banco de Espa�a Working Papers 1026, Banco de Espa�a.
  10. Dean Croushore & Tom Stark, 2003. "A Real-Time Data Set for Macroeconomists: Does the Data Vintage Matter?," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 85(3), pages 605-617, August.
  11. James H. Stock & Mark W. Watson, 1999. "Forecasting Inflation," NBER Working Papers 7023, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  12. Vladimir Yankov & Egon Zakrajsek & Simon Gilchrist, 2009. "Credit Market Shocks and Economic Fluctuations: Evidence from Corporate Bond and Stock Markets," 2009 Meeting Papers 514, Society for Economic Dynamics.
  13. Jonathan H. Wright, 2006. "The yield curve and predicting recessions," Finance and Economics Discussion Series 2006-07, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.).
  14. Arthur F. Burns & Wesley C. Mitchell, 1946. "Measuring Business Cycles," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number burn46-1, December.
  15. Maximo Camacho & Gabriel Perez-Quiros, 2008. "Introducing the EURO-STING: Short Term INdicator of Euro Area Growth," Banco de Espa�a Working Papers 0807, Banco de Espa�a.
  16. Michael J. Dueker, 2003. "Dynamic forecasts of qualitative variables: a Qual VAR model of U.S. recessions," Working Papers 2001-012, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis.
  17. Travis Berge & Oscar Jorda, 2009. "The Classification of Economic Activity into Expansions and Recessions," Working Papers 918, University of California, Davis, Department of Economics.
  18. Marcelle Chauvet & Jeremy M. Piger, 2005. "A comparison of the real-time performance of business cycle dating methods," Working Papers 2005-021, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis.
  19. James H. Stock & Mark W. Watson, 1993. "A Procedure for Predicting Recessions with Leading Indicators: Econometric Issues and Recent Experience," NBER Chapters, in: Business Cycles, Indicators and Forecasting, pages 95-156 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  20. Andrew Harvey (ed.), 1994. "Time Series," Books, Edward Elgar, volume 0, number 599.
  21. Marcelle Chauvet & Simon Potter, 2005. "Forecasting recessions using the yield curve," Journal of Forecasting, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 24(2), pages 77-103.
  22. James H. Stock & Mark W. Watson, 1989. "New Indexes of Coincident and Leading Economic Indicators," NBER Chapters, in: NBER Macroeconomics Annual 1989, Volume 4, pages 351-409 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  23. Edward E. Leamer, 2008. "What's a Recession, Anyway?," NBER Working Papers 14221, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  24. Marcelle Chauvet & James D. Hamilton, 2005. "Dating Business Cycle Turning Points," NBER Working Papers 11422, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  25. Thomas B. King & Andrew T. Levin & Roberto Perli, 2007. "Financial market perceptions of recession risk," Finance and Economics Discussion Series 2007-57, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.).
  26. Harding, Don & Pagan, Adrian, 2006. "Synchronization of cycles," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 132(1), pages 59-79, May.
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