Inflation has been rising during the pandemic against supply chain disruptions and a multi-year boom in global owner-occupied house prices. We present some stylized facts pointing to house prices as a leading indicator of headline inflation in the U.S. and eight other major economies with fast-rising house prices. We then apply machine learning methods to forecast inflation in two housing components (rent and owner-occupied housing cost) of the headline inflation and draw tentative inferences about inflationary impact. Our results suggest that for most of these countries, the housing components could have a relatively large and sustained contribution to headline inflation, as inflation is just starting to reflect the higher house prices. Methodologically, for the vast majority of countries we analyze, machine-learning models outperform the VAR model, suggesting some potential value for incorporating such models into inflation forecasting.
We develop a framework to nowcast (and forecast) economic variables with machine learning techniques. We explain how machine learning methods can address common shortcomings of traditional OLS-based models and use several machine learning models to predict real output growth with lower forecast errors than traditional models. By combining multiple machine learning models into ensembles, we lower forecast errors even further. We also identify measures of variable importance to help improve the transparency of machine learning-based forecasts. Applying the framework to Turkey reduces forecast errors by at least 30 percent relative to traditional models. The framework also better predicts economic volatility, suggesting that machine learning techniques could be an important part of the macro forecasting toolkit of many countries.
IV. Results—More Accurate Forecasts
Individual ML methods can improve forecast performance . Figure 1 plots the RMSE of the benchmark factor model nowcast, against the RSME of the three machinelearningmodels (RF, GBT and SVM) for the 2012– 2019 period. 9 The benchmark has a RMSE of 1.66, which corresponds to a mean absolute deviation of about 1.2 percentage points per nowcast. Using RF, GBT, or SVM reduces the RMSE by 24, 22, and 18 percent, respectively. We find similar improvements for the forecast models ( Figure A5.1 ), where the RF and GBT outperform
We produce a social unrest risk index for 125 countries covering a period of 1996 to 2020. The risk of social unrest is based on the probability of unrest in the following year derived from a machine learning model drawing on over 340 indicators covering a wide range of macro-financial, socioeconomic, development and political variables. The prediction model correctly forecasts unrest in the following year approximately two-thirds of the time. Shapley values indicate that the key drivers of the predictions include high levels of unrest, food price inflation and mobile phone penetration, which accord with previous findings in the literature.