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Nowcasting (economics)

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Nowcasting in economics is the prediction of the very recent past, the present, and the very near future state of an economic indicator. The term is a portmanteau of "now" and "forecasting" and originates in meteorology. Typical measures used to assess the state of an economy, such as gross domestic product (GDP) or inflation, are only determined after a delay and are subject to revision.[1] In these cases, nowcasting such indicators can provide an estimate of the variables before the true data are known. Nowcasting models have been applied most notably in Central Banks, who use the estimates to monitor the state of the economy in real-time as a proxy for official measures.[2][3]


While weather forecasters know weather conditions today and only have to predict future weather, economists have to forecast the present and even the recent past. Many official measures are not timely due to the difficulty in collecting information. Historically, nowcasting techniques have been based on simplified heuristic approaches but now rely on complex econometric techniques. Using these statistical models to produce predictions eliminates the need for informal judgement.[4]

Nowcast models can exploit information from a large quantity of data series at different frequencies and with different publication lags.[5] Signals about the direction of change in GDP can be extracted from this large and heterogeneous set of information sources (such as jobless figures, industrial orders, trade balances) before the official estimate of GDP is published. In nowcasting, this data is used to compute sequences of current quarter GDP estimates in relation to the real time flow of data releases.


Selected academic research papers show how this technique has developed.[6][7][8][9][10][11][12][13]

Banbura, Giannone and Reichlin (2011)[14] and Marta Banbura, Domenico Giannone, Michele Modugno & Lucrezia Reichlin (2013)[15] provide surveys of the basic methods and more recent refinements.

Nowcasting methods based on social media content (such as Twitter) have been developed to estimate hidden sentiment such as the 'mood' of a population[16] or the presence of a flu epidemic.[17]

A simple-to-implement, regression-based approach to nowcasting involves mixed-data sampling or MIDAS regressions.[18] The MIDAS regressions can also be combined with machine learning approaches.[19]

Econometric models can improve accuracy.[20] Such models can be built using bayesian vector autoregressions, dynamic factors, bridge equations using time series methods, or some combination with other methods.[21]


Economic nowcasting is largely developed by and used in central banks to support monetary policy.

Many of the Reserve Banks of the US Federal Reserve System publish macroeconomic nowcasts. The Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta publishes GDPNow to track GDP.[3][21] Similarly, the Federal Reserve Bank of New York publishes a dynamic factor model nowcast.[2] Neither are official forecasts of the Federal Reserve regional bank, system, or the FOMC; nor do they incorporate human judgment.

Nowcasting can also be used to estimate inflation[22] or the business cycle. An example of a business cycle nowcast is the ADS Index.[23]


  1. ^ Hueng, C. James (2020-08-25), "Alternative Economic Indicators", W.E. Upjohn Institute, pp. 1–4, doi:10.17848/9780880996778.ch1, ISBN 978-0-88099-677-8 {{citation}}: Missing or empty |title= (help)
  2. ^ a b "Nowcasting Report - FEDERAL RESERVE BANK of NEW YORK". www.newyorkfed.org. Retrieved 2020-09-24.
  3. ^ a b "GDPNow". www.frbatlanta.org. Retrieved 2020-09-24.
  4. ^ Giannone, Domenico; Reichlin, Lucrezia; Small, David (May 2008). "Nowcasting: The real-time informational content of macroeconomic data". Journal of Monetary Economics. 55 (4): 665–676. CiteSeerX doi:10.1016/j.jmoneco.2008.05.010. Retrieved 12 June 2015.
  5. ^ Bańbura, Marta; Modugno, Michele (2012-11-12). "Maximum Likelihood Estimation of Factor Models on Datasets with Arbitrary Pattern of Missing Data". Journal of Applied Econometrics. 29 (1): 133–160. doi:10.1002/jae.2306. hdl:10419/153623. ISSN 0883-7252. S2CID 14231301.
  6. ^ Camacho, Maximo; Perez-Quiros, Gabriel (2010). "Introducing the euro-sting: Short-term indicator of euro area growth". Journal of Applied Econometrics. 25 (4): 663–694. doi:10.1002/jae.1174. Retrieved 12 June 2015.
  7. ^ Matheson, Troy D. (January 2010). "An analysis of the informational content of New Zealand data releases: The importance of business opinion surveys". Economic Modelling. 27 (1): 304–314. doi:10.1016/j.econmod.2009.09.010. Retrieved 12 June 2015.
  8. ^ Evans, Martin D. D. (September 2005). "Where Are We Now? Real-Time Estimates of the Macroeconomy". International Journal of Central Banking. 1 (2). Retrieved 12 June 2015.
  9. ^ Rünstler, G.; Barhoumi, K.; Benk, S.; Cristadoro, R.; Den Reijer, A.; Jakaitiene, A.; Jelonek, P.; Rua, A.; Ruth, K.; Van Nieuwenhuyze, C. (2009). "Short-term forecasting of GDP using large datasets: a pseudo real-time forecast evaluation exercise". Journal of Forecasting. 28 (7): 595–611. doi:10.1002/for.1105.
  10. ^ Angelini, Elena; Banbura, Marta; Rünstler, Gerhard (2010). "Estimating and forecasting the euro area monthly national accounts from a dynamic factor model". OECD Journal: Journal of Business Cycle Measurement and Analysis. 1: 7. Retrieved 12 June 2015.
  11. ^ Domenico, Giannone; Reichlin, Lucrezia; Simonelli, Saverio (23 November 2009). "Is the UK still in recession? We don't think so". Vox. Retrieved 12 June 2015.
  12. ^ Kajal, Lahiri; Monokroussos, George (2013). "Nowcasting US GDP: The role of ISM business surveys". International Journal of Forecasting. 29 (4): 644–658. CiteSeerX doi:10.1016/j.ijforecast.2012.02.010. S2CID 12028550.
  13. ^ Antolin-Diaz, Juan; Drechsel, Thomas; Petrella, Ivan (2014). "Following the Trend: Tracking GDP when Long-Run Growth is Uncertain". CEPR Discussion Papers 10272. Retrieved 12 June 2015.
  14. ^ Banbura, Marta; Giannone, Domenico; Reichlin, Lucrezia (2010). "Nowcasting". In Clements, Michael P.; Hendry, David F. (eds.). Oxford Handbook on Economic Forecasting. Oxford University Press.
  15. ^ Banbura, Marta; Giannone, Domenico; Modugno, Michele; Reichlin, Lucrezia (2013). "Chapter 4. Nowcasting and the Real-Time Dataflow". In Elliot, G.; Timmerman, A. (eds.). Handbook on Economic Forecasting. Handbook of Economic Forecasting. Vol. 2. Elsevier. pp. 195–237. doi:10.1016/B978-0-444-53683-9.00004-9. hdl:10419/153997. ISBN 9780444536839. S2CID 14278918.
  16. ^ Lansdall‐Welfare, Thomas; Lampos, Vasileios; Cristianini, Nello (August 2012). "Nowcasting the mood of the nation". Significance. 9 (4): 26–28. doi:10.1111/j.1740-9713.2012.00588.x. Archived from the original on 20 August 2012.
  17. ^ Lampos, Vasileios; Cristianini, Nello (2012). "Nowcasting Events from the Social Web with Statistical Learning" (PDF). ACM Transactions on Intelligent Systems and Technology. 3 (4): 1–22. doi:10.1145/2337542.2337557. S2CID 8297993.
  18. ^ Andreou, Elena; Ghysels, Eric; Kourtellos, Andros (2011-07-08). "Forecasting with Mixed-Frequency Data". Oxford Handbooks Online: 225–246. doi:10.1093/oxfordhb/9780195398649.013.0009. ISBN 978-0195398649.
  19. ^ Babii, Andrii; Ghysels, Eric; Striaukas, Jonas (2020). "Machine learning time series regressions with an application to nowcasting".
  20. ^ Tessier, Thomas H.; Armstrong, J. Scott (2015). "Decomposition of time-series by level and change". Journal of Business Research. 68 (8): 1755–1758. doi:10.1016/j.jbusres.2015.03.035.
  21. ^ a b Higgins, Patrick (July 2014). "GDPNow: A Model for GDP "Nowcasting"" (PDF). Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta Working Paper Series.
  22. ^ Ahn, Hie Joo; Fulton, Chad (2020). "Index of Common Inflation Expectations". FEDS Notes. 2020 (2551). doi:10.17016/2380-7172.2551. ISSN 2380-7172. S2CID 225316591 – via Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System.
  23. ^ Aruoba, S. Boragan; Diebold, Francis; Scotti, Chiara (2008). "Real-Time Measurement of Business Conditions". Cambridge, MA. doi:10.3386/w14349. {{cite journal}}: Cite journal requires |journal= (help)

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