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Seeing Inside the Black Box: Using Diffusion Index Methodology to Construct Factor Proxies in Largescale Macroeconomic Time Series Environments

  • Norman R. Swanson

    ()

    (Rutgers University)

  • Nii Ayi Armah

    ()

    (Bank of Canada)

In economics, common factors are often assumed to underlie the co-movements of a set of macroeconomic variables. For this reason, many authors have used estimated factors in the construction of prediction models. In this paper, we begin by surveying the extant literature on diffusion indexes. We then outline a number of approaches to the selection of factor proxies (observed variables that proxy unobserved estimated factors) using the statistics developed in Bai and Ng (2006a,b). Our approach to factor proxy selection is examined via a small Monte Carlo experiment, where evidence supporting our proposed methodology is presented, and via a large set of prediction experiments using the panel dataset of Stock and Watson (2005). One of our main empirical findings is that our “smoothed” approaches to factor proxy selection appear to yield predictions that are often superior not only to a benchmark factor model, but also to simple linear time series models which are generally difficult to beat in forecasting competitions. In some sense, by using our approach to predictive factor proxy selection, one is able to open up the “black box” often associated with factor analysis, and to identify actual variables that can serve as primitive building blocks for (prediction) models of a host of macroeconomic variables, and that can also serve are policy instruments, for example. Our findings suggest that important observable variables include: various S&P500 variables, including stock price indices and dividend series; a 1-year Treasury bond rate; various housing activity variables; industrial production; and exchange rates.

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Paper provided by Rutgers University, Department of Economics in its series Departmental Working Papers with number 201105.

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Length: 20 pages
Date of creation: 14 May 2011
Date of revision:
Publication status: Published in Econometric Reviews, 29, 476-510.
Handle: RePEc:rut:rutres:201105
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  1. Mario Forni & Marc Hallin & Marco Lippi & Lucrezia Reichlin, 2005. "The generalised dynamic factor model: one sided estimation and forecasting," ULB Institutional Repository 2013/10129, ULB -- Universite Libre de Bruxelles.
  2. Connor, Gregory & Korajczyk, Robert A, 1993. " A Test for the Number of Factors in an Approximate Factor Model," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 48(4), pages 1263-91, September.
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  6. Richard Clarida & Jordi Galí & Mark Gertler, 1997. "Monetary policy rules and macroeconomic stability: Evidence and some theory," Economics Working Papers 350, Department of Economics and Business, Universitat Pompeu Fabra, revised May 1999.
  7. Valentina Corradi & Norman R. Swanson, 2003. "Bootstrap Conditional Distribution Tests In the Presence of Dynamic Misspecification," Departmental Working Papers 200311, Rutgers University, Department of Economics.
  8. Stock, James H & Watson, Mark W, 1996. "Evidence on Structural Instability in Macroeconomic Time Series Relations," Journal of Business & Economic Statistics, American Statistical Association, vol. 14(1), pages 11-30, January.
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  11. Forni, Mario & Reichlin, Lucrezia, 1995. "Dynamic Common Factors in Large Cross-Sections," CEPR Discussion Papers 1285, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  12. Clarida, R. & Gali, J. & Gertler, M., 1999. "The Science of Monetary Policy: A New Keynesian Perspective," Working Papers 99-13, C.V. Starr Center for Applied Economics, New York University.
  13. Bai, Jushan & Ng, Serena, 2007. "Determining the Number of Primitive Shocks in Factor Models," Journal of Business & Economic Statistics, American Statistical Association, vol. 25, pages 52-60, January.
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  17. Mario Forni & Marc Hallin & Marco Lippi & Lucrezia Reichlin, 2000. "The Generalized Dynamic-Factor Model: Identification And Estimation," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 82(4), pages 540-554, November.
  18. Bernanke, Ben S. & Boivin, Jean, 2003. "Monetary policy in a data-rich environment," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 50(3), pages 525-546, April.
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  21. Corradi, Valentina & Swanson, Norman R., 2006. "Predictive Density Evaluation," Handbook of Economic Forecasting, Elsevier.
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  23. Douglas T. Breeden & Michael R Gibbons & Robert H. Litzenberger, . "Empirical Tests of the Consumption-Oriented CAPM," Rodney L. White Center for Financial Research Working Papers 7-89, Wharton School Rodney L. White Center for Financial Research.
  24. White, Halbert, 1980. "A Heteroskedasticity-Consistent Covariance Matrix Estimator and a Direct Test for Heteroskedasticity," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 48(4), pages 817-38, May.
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  26. Bai, Jushan & Ng, Serena, 2006. "Evaluating latent and observed factors in macroeconomics and finance," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 131(1-2), pages 507-537.
  27. Connor, Gregory & Korajczyk, Robert A., 1986. "Performance measurement with the arbitrage pricing theory : A new framework for analysis," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 15(3), pages 373-394, March.
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  29. Jushan Bai, 2003. "Inferential Theory for Factor Models of Large Dimensions," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 71(1), pages 135-171, January.
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