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Working Paper

Financial Nowcasts and Their Usefulness in Macroeconomic Forecasting

Financial data often contain information that is helpful for macroeconomic forecasting, while multistep forecast accuracy also benefits by incorporating good nowcasts of macroeconomic variables. This paper considers the role of nowcasts of financial variables in making conditional forecasts of real and nominal macroeconomic variables using standard quarterly Bayesian vector autoregressions (BVARs). For nowcasting the quarterly value of a variety of financial variables, we document that the average of the available daily data and a daily random walk forecast to fill in the missing days in the quarter typically outperforms other nowcasting approaches. Using real-time data and out-of-sample forecasting exercises, we find that the inclusion of financial variable nowcasts by themselves generally improves forecast accuracy for macroeconomic variables relative to unconditional forecasts, although we document several exceptions in which current-quarter forecast accuracy worsens with the inclusion of the financial nowcasts. Incorporating financial nowcasts and nowcasts of macroeconomic variables generally improves the forecast accuracy for all the macroeconomic indicators of interest, beyond including the nowcasts of the macroeconomic variables alone. Conditional forecasts generated from quarterly BVARs augmented with nowcasts of key financial variables rival the forecast accuracy of mixed-frequency dynamic factor models (MF-DFMs) and mixed-data sampling (MIDAS) models that explicitly link the quarterly data and forecasts to high-frequency financial data.

Working Papers of the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland are preliminary materials circulated to stimulate discussion and critical comment on research in progress. They may not have been subject to the formal editorial review accorded official Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland publications. The views expressed in this paper are those of the authors and do not represent the views of the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland or the Federal Reserve System.

Suggested Citation

Knotek, Edward S., II, and Saeed Zaman. 2017. “Financial Nowcasts and Their Usefulness in Macroeconomic Forecasting.” Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland, Working Paper No. 17-02.