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Essays on real-time econometrics and forecasting


  • Michèle Modugno


The thesis contains four essays covering topics in the field of real time econometrics and forecasting. The first Chapter, entitled “An area wide real time data base for the euro area” and coauthored with Domenico Giannone, Jerome Henry and Magda Lalik, describes how we constructed a real time database for the euro area covering more than 200 series regularly published in the European Central Bank Monthly Bulletin, as made available ahead of publication to the Governing Council members before their first meeting of the month. Recent research has emphasised that the data revisions can be large for certain indicators and can have a bearing on the decisions made, as well as affect the assessment of their relevance. It is therefore key to be in a position to reconstruct the historical environment of economic decisions at the time they were made by private agents and policy-makers rather than using the data as they become available some years later. For this purpose, it is necessary to have the information in the form of all the different vintages of data as they were published in real time, the so-called "real-time data" that reflect the economic situation at a given point in time when models are estimated or policy decisions made. We describe the database in details and study the properties of the euro area real-time data flow and data revisions, also providing comparisons with the United States and Japan. We finally illustrate how such revisions can contribute to the uncertainty surrounding key macroeconomic ratios and the NAIRU. The second Chapter entitled “Maximum likelihood estimation of large factor model on datasets with arbitrary pattern of missing data” is based on a joint work with Marta Banbura. It proposes a methodology for the estimation of factor models on large cross-sections with a general pattern of missing data. In contrast to Giannone et al (2008), we can handle datasets that are not only characterised by a 'ragged edge', but can include e.g. mixed frequency or short history indicators. The latter is particularly relevant for the euro area or other young economies, for which many series have been compiled only since recently. We adopt the maximum likelihood approach, which, apart from the flexibility with regard to the pattern of missing data, is also more efficient and allows imposing restrictions on the parameters. It has been shown by Doz et al (2006) to be consistent, robust and computationally feasible also in the case of large cross-sections. To circumvent the computational complexity of a direct likelihood maximisation in the case of large cross-section, Doz et al (2006) propose to use the iterative Expectation-Maximisation (EM) algorithm. Our contribution is to modify the EM steps to the case of missing data and to show how to augment the model in order to account for the serial correlation of the idiosyncratic component. In addition, we derive the link between the unexpected part of a data release and the forecast revision and illustrate how this can be used to understand the sources of the latter in the case of simultaneous releases. We use this methodology for short-term forecasting and backdating of the euro area GDP on the basis of a large panel of monthly and quarterly data. The third Chapter is entitled “Nowcasting Inflation Using High Frequency Data” and it proposes a methodology for nowcasting and forecasting inflation using data with sampling frequency higher than monthly. In particular, this Chapter focuses on the energy component of inflation given the availability of data like the Weekly Oil Bulletin Price Statistics for the euro area, the Weekly Retail Gasoline and Diesel Prices for the US and the daily spot and future prices of crude oil. Although nowcasting inflation is a novel idea, there is a rather long literature focusing on nowcasting GDP. The use of higher frequency indicators in order to Nowcast/Forecast lower frequency indicators had started with monthly data for GDP. GDP is a quarterly variable released with a substantial time delay (e.g. two months after the end of the reference quarter for the euro area GDP). The estimation adopts the methodology described in Chapter 2, modeling the data as a trading day frequency factor model with missing observations in a state space representation. In contrast to other procedures, the methodology proposed models all the data within a unified single framework that allows one to produce forecasts of all the involved variables from a factor model, which, by definition, does not suffer from overparametrisation. Moreover, this offers the possibility to disentangle model-based "news" from each release and then to assess their impact on the forecast revision. The Chapter provides an illustrative example of this procedure, focusing on a specific month. In order to assess the importance of using high frequency data for forecasting inflation this Chapter compares the forecast performance of the univariate models, i.e. random walk and autoregressive process, with the forecast performance of the model that uses weekly and daily data. The provided empirical evidence shows that exploiting high frequency data relative to oil not only let us nowcast and forecast the energy component of inflation with a precision twice better than the proposed benchmarks, but we obtain a similar improvement even for total inflation. The fourth Chapter entitled “The forecasting power of international yield curve linkages”, coauthored with Kleopatra Nikolaou, investigates dependency patterns between the yield curves of Germany and the US, by using an out-of-sample forecast exercise. The motivation for this Chapter stems from the fact that our up to date knowledge on dependency patterns among yields curves of different countries is limited. Looking at the yield curve literature, the empirical evidence to-date informs us of strong contemporaneous interdependencies of yield curves across countries, in line with increased globalization and financial integration. Nevertheless, this yield curve literature does not investigate non-contemporaneous correlations. And yet, clear indication in favour of such dependency patterns is recorded in studies focusing on specific interest rates, which look at the role of certain countries as global players (see Frankel et al. (2004), Chinn and Frankel (2005) and Wang et al. (2007)). Evidence from these studies suggests a leading role for the US. Moreover, dependency patterns recorded in the real business cycles between the US and the euro area (Giannone and Reichlin, 2007) can also rationalize such linkages, to the extent that output affects nominal interest rates. We propose, estimate and forecast (out-of-sample) a novel dynamic factor model for the yield curve, where dynamic information from foreign yield curves is introduced into domestic yield curve forecasts. This is the International Dependency Model (IDM). We want to compare the yield curve forecast under the IDM versus a purely domestic model and a model that allows for contemporaneous common global factors. These models serve as useful comparisons. The domestic model bears direct modeling links with IDM, as it can be seen as a nested model of IDM. The global model bears less direct links in terms of modeling, but, in line with IDM, it is also an international model that serves to highlight the advantages of introducing international information in yield curve forecasts. However, the global model aims to identify contemporaneous linkages in the yield curve of the two countries, whereas the IDM also allows for detecting dependency patterns. Our results that shocks appear to be diffused in a rather asymmetric manner across the two countries. Namely, we find a unidirectional causality effect that runs from the US to Germany. This effect is stronger in the last ten years, where out-of-sample forecasts of Germany using the US information are even more accurate than the random walk forecasts. Our statistical results demonstrate a more independent role for the US.

Suggested Citation

  • Michèle Modugno, 2011. "Essays on real-time econometrics and forecasting," ULB Institutional Repository 2013/209841, ULB -- Universite Libre de Bruxelles.
  • Handle: RePEc:ulb:ulbeco:2013/209841
    Note: Degree: Doctorat en Sciences économiques et de gestion

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