24 Jan 2005
Reconsidering the Evidence
This paper, using 40 years of monthly industrial production data, examines the relationship between the business cycles of the 12 euro area countries. Since estimates of the business cycle have been found to be sensitive to how the cycle is measured, a range of alternative measures is considered. We focus on both parametric and nonparametric univariate measures of the "classical" and "growth" cycles. We then investigate whether euro area business cycles have converged. This is based on a descriptive analysis of the distribution of bivariate correlation coefficients between the 12 countries’ business cycles. This extends previous work that has looked for convergence, in a similar manner by focusing on correlation, but has not considered the entire distribution, instead focusing on the mean correlation coefficient or particular bivariate correlation coefficients. Moreover, exploiting the panel of correlation coefficients we propose a statistical test for convergence based on estimation of a dynamic heterogeneous panel data model. Although empirical inference about individual euro area business cycles is found to be sensitive to the measure of the business cycle considered, our findings about convergence between the euro area business cycles exhibit similarities across the alternative measures of the business cycle. Interestingly, we find that there have been periods of convergence, identified by the distribution tending to unity, and periods of divergence. The most recent estimates suggest that correlation between the 12 European cycles is statistically positive, and has risen from a trough in the early 1990s. This is confirmed by the test for convergence, which indicates that, despite some volatility over the last 20 years, the long-run trend is for rising correlation between euro area business cycles.
24 Jan 2005
Business Cycle Indexes
Business cycle indexes are used to get a timely and frequent description of the state of the economy and its likely development in the near future. This paper discusses two methods for constructing business cycle indexes, the traditional NBER method and a recently developed dynamic factor model, and compares these methods for the euro area. The results suggest that a reliable index can be constructed from a limited number of series that are selected using economic logic. We next decompose this index to identify variables that seem to be driving the euro area cycle.Business cycle indexes are used to get a timely and frequent description of the state of the economy and its likely development in the near future. This paper discusses two methods for constructing business cycle indexes, the traditional NBER method and a recently developed dynamic factor model, and compares these methods for the euro area. The results suggest that a reliable index can be constructed from a limited number of series that are selected using economic logic. We next decompose this index to identify variables that seem to be driving the euro area cycle. This analysis reveals important differences across countries in these driving variables.
24 Jan 2005
Real-Time Data and Business Cycle Analysis in Germany
This paper examines the consequences of using so-called "real-time" data for business cycle analysis in Germany. Based on a novel data set covering quarterly real output data from 1980 to 2002 real-time output gaps using some popular filter methods are calculated. They differ considerably from their counterparts based on the most recent data and are, thus, not very reliable. While real-time output gaps are generally not unbiased forecasts of the final output gap series, they provide at least some information regarding the sign of the final output gap. The information content of output gaps calculated in real-time for future inflation is tested by means of an out-of-sample forecast exercise and found to be very limited. Generally, the results for simple growth rates appear to be more promising that the results for simple filters to estimate the output gap. This points to the possibility that the problematic nature of the real-time output gaps is not due to revisions of the underlying data but due to the end-of-sample problem that occurs in filtering recent data. All in all, the results support previous findings regarding other countries that revisions of data and output gap estimates can seriously distort business cycle analysis and, thus, research and policy decisions.
24 Jan 2005
Revision of National Accounts
This paper studies the revisions of the expenditure approach variables of the National Accounts, the most popular tool in macroeconomic forecasting and analysis. Preliminary figures get most attention. But how reliable are they? Generally, preliminary figures underestimate growth rates. Some revision distributions are significantly non-normal, being leptokurtic, which translates to frequent outliers. The dispersion of the revisions of some variables is so large that the general usefulness of these variables can seriously be questioned. For many variables, revisions are correlated with the business cycle, i.e. growth rates are revised upwards in upturns and downwards in downturns. Plausible reasons are: biased imputation rules, prudent judgment and a sampling problem. Opposite signs and indications of acceleration/deceleration of preliminary and final figures are recorded and discussed. Different seasonal patterns further emphasize the incongruence between preliminary and final data. This may have serious consequences when analyzing seasonally adjusted data. Consistency of vintages would require cointegration and a common stochastic trend, but none was found on any frequency. A "final" figure may be substantially revised years later. The "latest" long-range growth is different from final and preliminary growth rates. These later revisions are primarily due to new classification rules. An international comparison completes the study. Positive bias appears in many countries’ GDP revisions. Correlation with the business cycle is common among European countries. In the conclusions, some proposals are given on how to improve the usefulness of preliminary data.
24 Jan 2005
New Bank Lending Survey of the Eurosystem
Since January 2003 the Eurosystem conducts a regular quarterly bank lending survey for the euro area. It is the first regular survey that gathers information on the distinct supply-side determinants and demand-side determinants of the development in lending business for the euro area. The paper delineates the background and the institutional framework of the survey for the euro area as well as for Germany and provides aggregate survey results of the first eight survey rounds for Germany. Main tendencies as well as the contributing factors put forward by the banks surveyed are assessed on an aggregate level. In a detailed analysis, which additionally uses the information of the micro data level, we assess the factors impacting on changes in credit standards and in the demand for loans more closely and test for their significance. Apart from the relationship between different parts of the data obtained by the survey, the explanatory power of the survey data for actual loan growth and changes in credit margins is of special interest. Using the information from the bank balance sheets statistics and the new interest rate statistics of the monetary financial institutions (MFI) on the micro data level, we test whether the survey data contain significant information on banks' individual loan growth and margin changes.