Predicting interest rates using shrinkage methods, real-time diffusion indexes, and model combinations

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In the context of predicting the term structure of interest rates, we explore the marginal predictive content of real-time macroeconomic diffusion indexes extracted from a “data rich” real-time data set, when used in dynamic Nelson–Siegel (NS) models of the variety discussed in Svensson (NBER technical report, 1994; NSS) and Diebold and Li (Journal of Econometrics, 2006, 130, 337–364; DNS). Our diffusion indexes are constructed using principal component analysis with both targeted and untargeted predictors, with targeting done using the lasso and elastic net. Our findings can be summarized as follows. First, the marginal predictive content of real-time diffusion indexes is significant for the preponderance of the individual models that we examine. The exception to this finding is the post “Great Recession” period. Second, forecast combinations that include only yield variables result in our most accurate predictions, for most sample periods and maturities. In this case, diffusion indexes do not have marginal predictive content for yields and do not seem to reflect unspanned risks. This points to the continuing usefulness of DNS and NSS models that are purely yield driven. Finally, we find that the use of fully revised macroeconomic data may have an important confounding effect upon results obtained when forecasting yields, as prior research has indicated that diffusion indexes are often useful for predicting yields when constructed using fully revised data, regardless of whether forecast combination is used, or not. Nevertheless, our findings also underscore the potential importance of using machine learning, data reduction, and shrinkage methods in contexts such as term structure modeling.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)587-613
Number of pages27
JournalJournal of Applied Econometrics
Issue number5
StatePublished - Aug 1 2020

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Economics and Econometrics


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