Measuring financial cycle time

Staff working papers set out research in progress by our staff, with the aim of encouraging comments and debate.
Published on 25 January 2019

Staff Working Paper No. 776

By Andrew Filardo, Marco Lombardi and Marek Raczko

Motivated by the traditional business cycle approach of Burns and Mitchell (1946), we explore cyclical similarities in financial conditions over time in order to improve our understanding of financial cycles. Looking back at 120 years of data, we find that financial cycles exhibit behaviour characterised by recurrent, endogenous swings in financial conditions, which result in costly booms and busts. Yet the recurrent nature of such swings may not appear so obvious when looking at conventionally plotted time-series data (that is, observed in calendar time). Using the pioneering framework developed by Stock (1987), we offer a new statistical characterisation of the financial cycle using a continuous-time autoregressive model subject to time deformation (ie the difference between the time scale relevant for economic decision-making and conventional calendar time such as months, quarters and years), and test for systematic differences between calendar and a new notion of financial cycle time. We find the time deformation to be statistically significant, and associated with levels of long-term real interest rates, inflation volatility and the perceived riskiness of the macro-financial environment. Implications for statistical modelling, endogenous risk-taking economic behaviour and policy are highlighted.

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