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Forecasting Exchange Rates and Relative Prices with the Hamburger Standard: Is What You Want What You Get With McParity?


  • Robert E. Cumby


A decade ago the Economist began an annual survey of Big Mac prices as a guide to whether currencies are trading at the right exchange rates. This paper asks how well the hamburger standard has performed. Although average deviations from absolute Big Mac parity are large for several currencies, once estimates of these average deviations are removed from the data, the evidence suggests that convergence to relative Big Mac parity is quite rapid. The half-life of deviations from Big Mac parity appear to be about 1 year, which is considerably shorter than estimates of the half-life of deviations from purchasing power parity (4-5 years) that are reported in the literature. In addition, deviations from relative Big Mac parity appear to provide useful information for forecasting exchange rates. After accounting for currency-specific constants, a 10 percent undervaluation according to the hamburger standard in one year is associated with a 3.5 percent appreciation over the following year. Finally, deviations from relative Big Mac parity seem to be helpful in forecasting relative local currency prices. When the U.S. dollar price of Big Macs is high in a country, the relative local currency price of Big Macs in that country is likely to fall during the following year.

Suggested Citation

  • Robert E. Cumby, 1996. "Forecasting Exchange Rates and Relative Prices with the Hamburger Standard: Is What You Want What You Get With McParity?," NBER Working Papers 5675, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:5675
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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Lothian, James R., 1997. "Multi-country evidence on the behavior of purchasing power parity under the current float," Journal of International Money and Finance, Elsevier, vol. 16(1), pages 19-35, February.
    2. Frankel, Jeffrey A. & Rose, Andrew K., 1996. "A panel project on purchasing power parity: Mean reversion within and between countries," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 40(1-2), pages 209-224, February.
    3. Chamberlain, Gary, 1984. "Panel data," Handbook of Econometrics,in: Z. Griliches† & M. D. Intriligator (ed.), Handbook of Econometrics, edition 1, volume 2, chapter 22, pages 1247-1318 Elsevier.
    4. Im, Kyung So & Pesaran, M. Hashem & Shin, Yongcheol, 2003. "Testing for unit roots in heterogeneous panels," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 115(1), pages 53-74, July.
    5. Michael R. Pakko & Patricia S. Pollard, 1996. "For here or to go? Purchasing power parity and the Big Mac," Review, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, issue Jan, pages 3-22.
    6. Kiviet, Jan F., 1995. "On bias, inconsistency, and efficiency of various estimators in dynamic panel data models," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 68(1), pages 53-78, July.
    7. Ng, S. & Perron, P., 1994. "Unit Root Tests ARMA Models with Data Dependent Methods for the Selection of the Truncation Lag," Cahiers de recherche 9423, Universite de Montreal, Departement de sciences economiques.
    8. Nickell, Stephen J, 1981. "Biases in Dynamic Models with Fixed Effects," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 49(6), pages 1417-1426, November.
    9. Hall, Alastair R, 1994. "Testing for a Unit Root in Time Series with Pretest Data-Based Model Selection," Journal of Business & Economic Statistics, American Statistical Association, vol. 12(4), pages 461-470, October.
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    JEL classification:

    • F31 - International Economics - - International Finance - - - Foreign Exchange
    • F30 - International Economics - - International Finance - - - General


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