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Tests of conditional predictive ability

By Raffaella Giacomini and Halbert White

Abstract

We argue that the current framework for predictive ability testing (e.g.,West, 1996) is not necessarily useful for real-time forecast selection, i.e., for assessing which of two competing forecasting methods will perform better in the future. We propose an alternative framework for out-of-sample comparison of predictive ability which delivers more practically relevant conclusions. Our approach is based on inference about conditional expectations of forecasts and forecast errors rather than the unconditional expectations that are the focus of the existing literature. We capture important determinants of forecast performance that are neglected in the existing literature by evaluating what we call the forecasting method (the model and the parameter estimation procedure), rather than just the forecasting model. Compared to previous approaches, our tests are valid under more general data assumptions (heterogeneity rather than stationarity) and estimation methods, and they can handle comparison of both nested and non-nested models, which is not currently possible. To illustrate the usefulness of the proposed tests, we compare the forecast performance of three leading parameter-reduction methods for macroeconomic forecasting using a large number of predictors: a sequential model selection approach, the "diffusion indexes" approach of Stock and Watson (2002), and the use of Bayesian shrinkage estimators.forecasting, predictive ability

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