12th A R Bergstrom Prize in Econometrics to Daan Steenkamp

Congratulations to Daan Steenkamp, who was awarded the 2017 A. R. Bergstrom Prize in Econometrics for his paper Daan_Steenkamp_dp17-02. The Bergstrom Prize can be awarded every two years and aims to reward the achievement of excellence in econometrics, as evidenced by a research paper in any area of econometrics.

If an asset price contains a ‘bubble’ it will exhibit explosive (i.e. exponential) dynamics. Recently developed tests by Phillips et al. (2015a) and Phillips et al. (2015b) provide an accurate way to gauge whether asset prices are experiencing explosive dynamics, or have done so in the past.

Daan Steenkamp’s paper applies those tests to eleven of the most commonly traded exchange rates at a daily frequency and over a long sample. When measured at a daily frequency, the volatility of exchange rates tends to be high and potentially non-stationary, and there may be a size distortion in the standard tests causing them to over-reject the null that the series is explosive. For this reason, a wild bootstrapping technique is used to compute critical values for statistical interference.

A second contribution of Daan’s paper is to consider the possibility of both positive and negative explosive periods. Currency pairs provide a natural test case in this regard because explosive increases (or collapses) in a foreign currency imply a corresponding collapse (or increase) in the given base currency. Furthermore, the influence of the base currency on the explosive dynamics may be inferred by considering the dynamics of its effective exchange rate, i.e. that currency’s value against a wide basket of foreign currencies.

The results show that bouts of explosiveness in exchange rates against the United States (US) dollar are uncommon at a daily frequency. Periods of explosiveness tend to last for several days but involve only small changes in currency levels. These also usually reverse shortly afterwards.

Second, the dynamics of the US dollar appear to be largely responsible for the results found for the individual currency pairs, as evidenced by a high concordance of their explosiveness with explosiveness in the broad value of the US dollar exchange rate. This result suggests that there are relatively few instances where explosiveness in individual cross-rates reflected country-specific factors. There is also evidence that explosive episodes in currency markets coincide with periods of high market volatility.

In their assessment, the adjudicators Professors Mark Holmes and Bob Reed noted that Daan’s work was “competent analysis based on cutting edge econometric techniques that provide valuable insights.”

11th A R Bergstrom Prize in Econometrics to Michelle Lewis

Congratulations to Michelle Lewis, who was awarded the 2015 A. R. Bergstrom Prize in Econometrics for her paper “Forecasting with Macro-Finance Models: Applications to United States and New Zealand”. The Bergstrom Prize can be awarded every two years (although a three year gap ensued this time) and aims to reward the achievement of excellence in econometrics, as evidenced by a research paper in any area of econometrics.

Michelle Lewis’s Masters Thesis employs macro-finance models, which incorporate macroeconomic and timely financial market data, to forecast macroeconomic variables and the yield curve for New Zealand and the United States. The macro-finance models use the arbitrage-free Nelson-Siegel approach to represent yield curve data with just several components, and those components are combined with the macroeconomic variables of economic activity, inflation, and policy interest rates in a joint vector autoregression to produce forecasts.

The key contribution to the literature is that Michelle’s forecasting analysis is undertaken in a genuine real-time setting. That is, the model estimation and forecasts use the actual macroeconomic data that was available at each historical point in time, which realistically allows for an unavoidable uncertainty faced by practitioners. Conversely, the comparable literature to-date uses quasi-real-time macroeconomic data, which simply truncates the final available macroeconomic data series to estimate the model and produce forecasts over history. While showing promising forecasting benefits from macro-finance models, quasi-real-time analysis is unrealistic because it implicitly assumes that future revisions to historical macroeconomic data are already known at each historical point in time.

Fortunately, Michelle’s results show that, even in real time, there are still substantial forecasting benefits from using macro-finance models. The forecast improvements are most significant and robust for inflation and the policy rate, and economic activity for longer horizons. Furthermore, theoretically motivated restrictions on the yield curve dynamics improve the forecast performance of macroeconomic variables, and the yield curve itself.

However, for economic activity at short-term horizons, the forecasts from macro-finance models do not outperform forecasts from a standard vector autoregression of the macroeconomic variables. This result is at odds with the analogous quasi-real-time analysis, hence illustrating that quasi-real-time analysis can overstate the forecasting benefits of macro-finance models.

In their assessment, the adjudicators Professors Alfred Haug and Les Oxley noted: “The thesis is a substantial piece of empirical research that involved constructing new data and applying sophisticated econometric techniques that were skilfully mastered. Overall, it is an excellent piece of empirical econometrics. The author needs to be congratulated on her achievements.”

10th A R Bergstrom Prize in Econometrics to Isabelle Sin

Congratulations to Isabelle Sin, who was awarded the 2012 A. R. Bergstrom Prize in Econometrics for her paper “The Gravity of Ideas: How Distance Affects Translations”. The Bergstrom Prize can be awarded every two years and aims to reward the achievement of excellence in econometrics, as evidenced by a research paper in any area of econometrics.

The citation for the award writes that Izi’s paper, elements of which appeared in her PhD dissertation, is “an innovative study of how various measures of distance affect the international transmission of ideas, as one potentially important component underlying growth and development processes.” More information about the prize is available from the New Zealand Association of Economists.

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