Time Series Econometrics Some Basic Concepts

We noted in Chapter 1 that one of the important types of data used in empirical analysis is time series data. In this and the following chapter we take a closer look at such data not only because of the frequency with which they are used in practice but also because they pose several challenges to econometricians and practitioners.

First, empirical work based on time series data assumes that the underlying time series is stationary. Although we have discussed the concept of sta-tionarity intuitively in Chapter 1, we discuss it more fully in this chapter. More specifically, we will try to find out what stationarity means and why one should worry about it.

Second, in Chapter 12, on autocorrelation, we discussed several causes of autocorrelation. Sometimes autocorrelation results because the underlying time series is nonstationary.

Third, in regressing a time series variable on another time series variable^), one often obtains a very high R2 (in excess of 0.9) even though there is no meaningful relationship between the two variables. Sometimes we expect no relationship between two variables, yet a regression of one on the other variable often shows a significant relationship. This situation exemplifies the problem of spurious, or nonsense, regression, whose nature will be explored shortly. It is therefore very important to find out if the relationship between economic variables is spurious or nonsensical. We will see in this chapter how spurious regressions can arise if time series are not stationary.

Fourth, some financial time series, such as stock prices, exhibit what is known as the random walk phenomenon. This means the best prediction


of the price of a stock, say IBM, tomorrow is equal to its price today plus a purely random shock (or error term). If this were in fact the case, forecasting asset prices would be a futile exercise.

Fifth, regression models involving time series data are often used for forecasting. In view of the preceding discussion, we would like to know if such forecasting is valid if the underlying time series are not stationary.

Finally, causality tests of Granger and Sims that we discussed in Chapter 17 assume that the time series involved in analysis are stationary. Therefore, tests of stationarity should precede tests of causality.

At the outset a disclaimer is in order. The topic of time series analysis is so vast and evolving and some of the mathematics underlying the various techniques of time series analysis is so involved that the best we hope to achieve in an introductory text like this is to give the reader a glimpse of some of the fundamental concepts of time series analysis. For those who want to pursue this topic further, we provide references.1

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