Economic predictions with big data: the illusion of sparsity
We compare sparse and dense representations of predictive models in macroeconomics, microeconomics, and finance. To deal with a large number of possible predictors, we specify a prior that allows for both variable selection and shrinkage. The posterior distribution does not typically concentrate on a single sparse or dense model, but on a wide set of models. A clearer pattern of sparsity can only emerge when models of very low dimension are strongly favored a priori.
Dynamic effects of credit shocks in a data-rich environment
We examine the dynamic effects of credit shocks using a large data set of U.S. economic and financial indicators in a structural factor model. An identified credit shock resulting in an unanticipated increase in credit spreads causes a large and persistent downturn in indicators of real economic activity, labor market conditions, expectations of future economic conditions, a gradual decline in aggregate price indices, and a decrease in short- and longer-term riskless interest rates. Our identification procedure, which imposes restrictions on the response of a small number of economic ...
Macroeconomic nowcasting and forecasting with big data
Data, data, data . . . Economists know it well, especially when it comes to monitoring macroeconomic conditions?the basis for making informed economic and policy decisions. Handling large and complex data sets was a challenge that macroeconomists engaged in real-time analysis faced long before ?big data? became pervasive in other disciplines. We review how methods for tracking economic conditions using big data have evolved over time and explain how econometric techniques have advanced to mimic and automate the best practices of forecasters on trading desks, at central banks, and in other ...
Forecasting Consumption Spending Using Credit Bureau Data
This paper considers whether the inclusion of information contained in consumer credit reports might improve the predictive accuracy of forecasting models for consumption spending. To investigate the usefulness of aggregate consumer credit information in forecasting consumption spending, this paper sets up a baseline forecasting model. Based on this model, a simulated real-time, out-of-sample exercise is conducted to forecast one-quarter ahead consumption spending. The exercise is run again after the addition of credit bureau variables to the model. Finally, a comparison is made to test ...
Identification Through Sparsity in Factor Models
Factor models are generally subject to a rotational indeterminacy, meaning that individualfactors are only identified up to a rotation. In the presence of local factors, which only affecta subset of the outcomes, we show that the implied sparsity of the loading matrix can be usedto solve this rotational indeterminacy. We further prove that a rotation criterion based on the`1-norm of the loading matrix can be used to achieve identification even under approximatesparsity in the loading matrix. This enables us to consistently estimate individual factors, andto interpret them as structural ...
A Generalized Factor Model with Local Factors
I extend the theory on factor models by incorporating local factors into the model. Local factors only affect an unknown subset of the observed variables. This implies a continuum of eigenvalues of the covariance matrix, as is commonly observed in applications. I derive which factors are pervasive enough to be economically important and which factors are pervasive enough to be estimable using the common principal component estimator. I then introduce a new class of estimators to determine the number of those relevant factors. Unlike existing estimators, my estimators use not only the ...
Term Structure Analysis with Big Data
Analysis of the term structure of interest rates almost always takes a two-step approach. First, actual bond prices are summarized by interpolated synthetic zero-coupon yields, and second, a small set of these yields are used as the source data for further empirical examination. In contrast, we consider the advantages of a one-step approach that directly analyzes the universe of bond prices. To illustrate the feasibility and desirability of the onestep approach, we compare arbitrage-free dynamic term structure models estimated using both approaches. We also provide a simulation study showing ...
Common and Idiosyncratic Inflation
We use a dynamic factor model to disentangle changes in prices due to economy-wide (common) shocks, from changes in prices due to idiosyncratic shocks. Using 146 disaggregated individual price series from the U.S. PCE price index, we find that most of the fluctuations in core PCE prices observed since 2010 have been idiosyncratic in nature. Moreover, we find that common core inflation responds to economic slack, while the idiosyncratic component does not. That said, even after filtering out idiosyncratic factors, the estimated Phillips curve is extremely flat post-1995. Therefore, our ...
Tracking Labor Market Developments during the COVID-19 Pandemic: A Preliminary Assessment
Many traditional official statistics are not suitable for measuring high-frequency developments that evolve over the course of weeks, not months. In this paper, we track the labor market effects of the COVID-19 pandemic with weekly payroll employment series based on microdata from ADP. These data are available essentially in real-time, and allow us to track both aggregate and industry effects. Cumulative losses in paid employment through April 4 are currently estimated at 18 million; just during the two weeks between March 14 and March 28 the U.S. economy lost about 13 million paid jobs. ...
A Unified Framework for Dimension Reduction in Forecasting
Factor models are widely used in summarizing large datasets with few underlying latent factors and in building time series forecasting models for economic variables. In these models, the reduction of the predictors and the modeling and forecasting of the response y are carried out in two separate and independent phases. We introduce a potentially more attractive alternative, Sufficient Dimension Reduction (SDR), that summarizes x as it relates to y, so that all the information in the conditional distribution of y|x is preserved. We study the relationship between SDR and popular estimation ...