James D. Hamilton

James D. Hamilton
University of California, San Diego | UCSD · Department of Economics

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93
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Publications

Publications (93)
Article
We develop a simple model of futures arbitrage that implies that if purchases by commodity index funds influence futures prices, then the notional positions of the index investors should help predict excess returns in these contracts. We find no evidence that the positions of index traders in agricultural contracts as identified by the Commodity Fu...
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If commercial producers or financial investors use futures contracts to hedge against commodity price risk, the arbitrageurs who take the other side of the contracts may receive compensation for their assumption of nondiversifiable risk in the form of positive expected returns from their positions. We show that this interaction can produce an affin...
Article
We develop a simple model of futures arbitrage that implies that if purchases by commodity index funds influence futures prices, then the notional positions of the index investors should help predict excess returns in these contracts. We find no evidence that the positions of index traders in agricultural contracts as identified by the Commodity Fu...
Article
This paper develops new results for identification and estimation of Gaussian affine term structure models. We establish that three popular canonical representations are unidentified, and demonstrate how unidentified regions can complicate numerical optimization. A separate contribution of the paper is the proposal of minimum-chi-square estimation...
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Understanding the consequences of international developments for domestic inflation is an extremely important question for central banks. But before we claim to have measured the extent of import price pass-through, it is necessary to be clear on exactly what such a number is intended to mean. One can attempt to come up with an answer on the basis...
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This paper explores details behind the phenomenal increase in global crude oil production over the last century and a half and the implications if that trend should be reversed. I document that a key feature of the growth in production has been exploitation of new geographic areas rather than application of better technology to existing sources, an...
Article
Affine term structure models have been used to address a wide range of questions in macroeconomics and finance. This paper investigates a number of their testable implications which have not previously been explored. We show that the assumption that certain specified yields are priced without error is testable, and find that the implied measurement...
Article
This paper reviews alternative options for monetary policy when the short-term interest rate is at the zero lower bound and develops new empirical estimates of the effects of the maturity structure of publicly held debt on the term structure of interest rates. We use a model of risk-averse arbitrageurs to develop measures of how the maturity struct...
Article
This paper relates predictable gains from positions in fed funds futures contracts to violations of the expectations hypothesis of the term structure of interest rates. Although evidence for predictable gains from positions in short-horizon contracts is mixed, we find that gains in longer horizon contracts can be well described using Markov-switchi...
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This paper surveys the history of the oil industry with a particular focus on the events associated with significant changes in the price of oil. Although oil was used much differently and was substantially less important economically in the nineteenth century than it is today, there are interesting parallels between events in that era and more rec...
Article
This paper develops a framework for inferring common Markov-switching components in a panel data set with large cross-section and time-series dimensions. We apply the framework to studying similarities and differences across U.S. states in the timing of business cycles. We hypothesize that there exists a small number of cluster designations, with i...
Article
We introduce a novel method for estimating a monetary policy rule using macroeconomic news. We estimate directly the policy rule agents use to form their expectations by linking news' effects on forecasts of both economic conditions and monetary policy. Evidence between 1994 and 2007 indicates that the market-perceived Federal Reserve policy rule c...
Article
This paper surveys efforts to automate the dating of business cycle turning points. Doing this on a real time, out-of-sample basis is a bigger challenge than many academics might assume, due to factors such as data revisions and changes in economic relationships over time. The paper stresses the value of both simulated real-time analysis — looking...
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This paper reviews some of the literature on the macroeconomic effects of oil price shocks with a particular focus on possible nonlinearities in the relation and recent new results obtained by Kilian and Vigfusson (2009).
Article
James D. Hamilton focuses on the causes and implications of the increasing food prices discussed by different authors in the previous articles. Daniel A. Sumner's paper puts recent developments in a 150-year perspective. The figure highlights the very dramatic downward trend in the real price of corn, which Sumner notes convincingly refutes the the...
Article
We introduce a novel method for estimating a monetary policy rule using macroeconomic news. Market forecasts of both economic conditions and monetary policy are affected by news, and our estimation links the two effects. This enables us to estimate directly the policy rule agents use to form their expectations, and in so doing flexibly capture the...
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This paper explores similarities and differences between the run-up of oil prices in 2007-08 and earlier oil price shocks, looking at what caused the price increase and what effects it had on the economy. Whereas historical oil price shocks were primarily caused by physical disruptions of supply, the price run-up of 2007-08 was caused by strong dem...
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This paper examines the factors responsible for changes in crude oil prices. The paper reviews the statistical behavior of oil prices, relates these to the predictions of theory, and looks in detail at key features of petroleum demand and supply. Topics discussed include the role of commodity speculation, OPEC, and resource depletion. The paper con...
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This paper offers an explication of the hump-shaped response of real economic activity to changes in monetary policy, focusing on the particular channel operating through new home sales. I suggest that the conventional notion of a monetary policy shock as a surprise change in the fed funds rate is misspecified. The primary news for market participa...
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This paper develops a generalization of the formulas proposed by Kuttner (2001) and others for purposes of measuring the effects of a change in the federal funds target on Treasury yields of different maturities. The generalization avoids the need to condition on the date of the target change and allows for deviations of the effective fed funds rat...
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Although ARCH-related models have proven quite popular in finance, they are less frequently used in macroeconomic applications. In part this may be because macroeconomists are usually more concerned about characterizing the conditional mean rather than the conditional variance of a time series. This paper argues that even if one's interest is in th...
Article
The conventional notion of a monetary policy shock as a surprise change in the fed funds rate is misspecified. The primary news for market participants is not what the Fed just did, but is instead new information about the Fed's future intentions. Revisions in these anticipations show up instantaneously in long-term mortgage rates. Home sales do no...
Chapter
Many economic time series occasionally exhibit dramatic breaks in their behaviour, associated with events such as financial crises (Jeanne and Masson, 2000; Cerra and Saxena, 2005; Hamilton, 2005) or abrupt changes in government policy (Hamilton, 1988; Sims and Zha, 2006; Davig, 2004). Of particular interest to economists is the apparent tendency o...
Article
This paper explores the properties of daily changes in the prices for near-term fed funds futures contracts. The paper finds these contracts to be excellent predictors of the fed funds rate, and shows that the claim of a nonzero term premium in the short-horizon contracts is more sensitive to outliers than previous research appears to have recogniz...
Article
The issue of normalization arises whenever two different values for a vector of unknown parameters imply the identical economic model. A normalization implies not just a rule for selecting which among equivalent points to call the maximum likelihood estimate (MLE), but also governs the topography of the set of points that go into a small-sample con...
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This paper discusses formal quantitative algorithms that can be used to identify business cycle turning points. An intuitive, graphical derivation of these algorithms is presented along with a description of how they can be implemented making very minimal distributional assumptions. We also provide the intuition and detailed description of these al...
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This paper argues that a linear statistical model with homoskedastic errors cannot capture the nineteenth-century notion of a recurring cyclical pattern in key economic aggregates. A simple nonlinear alternative is proposed and used to illustrate that the dynamic behavior of unemployment seems to change over the business cycle, with the unemploymen...
Article
The menu-cost interpretation of sticky prices implies that the probability of a price change should depend on the past history of prices and fundamentals only through the gap between the current price and the frictionless price. We find that this prediction is broadly consistent with the behavior of nine Philadelphia gasoline wholesalers. Neverthel...
Article
ere negative. Harding and Pagan find the latter rule more appealing on grounds of transparency, robustness, simplicity, and replicability. Although the two approaches to dating business cycles may appear very comparable when expressed in these terms, there is an important philosophical distinction between them. The Harding-Pagan criterion is simply...
Article
This paper serves as a partial introduction to and survey of the literature on Markov-switching models. We review the history of this class of models, describe their mathematical structure, and exposit the basic ideas behind estimation and inference. The paper also describes how the approach can be extended in a variety of directions, such as non-G...
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This paper is a statistical analysis of the manner in which the Federal Reserve determines the level of the federal funds rate target, one of the most publicized and anticipated economic indicators in the financial world. The paper introduces new statistical tools for forecasting a discrete-valued time series such as the target and suggests that th...
Article
The traditional formulation of the linear–quadratic inventory model with unit roots predicts cointegration between inventories and sales. That formulation implies that marginal production costs and the marginal benefits of inventories are both tending to ∞, and the cointegrating coefficient reflects the optimal trade-off between these competing fac...
Article
We examine Italian inflation rates and the Phillips curve with a very long-run perspective, one that covers the entire existence of the Italian lira from political unification (1861) to Italy's entry in the European Monetary Union (end of 1998). We first study the volatility, persistence and stationarity of the Italian inflation rate over the long...
Article
A recent paper by Bernanke, Gertler and Watson (1997) suggests that monetary policy could be used to eliminate any recessionary consequences of an oil price shock. This paper challenges that conclusion on two grounds. First, we question whether the Federal Reserve actually has the power to implement such a policy; for example, we consider it unlike...
Article
This paper is a statistical analysis of the manner in which the Federal Reserve determines the level of the Federal funds rate target, one of the most publicized and anticipated economic indicators in the financial world. The analysis presents two econometric challenges: (1) changes in the target are irregularly spaced in time; (2) the target is ch...
Article
This paper uses a flexible approach to characterize the nonlinear relation between oil price changes and GDP growth. The paper reports clear evidence of nonlinearity, consistent with earlier claims in the literature—oil price increases are much more important than oil price decreases, and increases have significantly less predictive content if they...
Article
This paper revisits the yield spread's usefulness for predicting future real GDP growth. We show that the contribution of the spread can be decomposed into the effect of expected future changes in short rates and the effect of the term premium. We find that both factors are relevant for predicting real GDP growth but the respective contributions di...
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This paper contributes empirically to our understanding of informed traders. It analyzes traders' characteristics in a foreign exchange electronic limit order market via anonymous trader identities. We use six indicators of informed trading in a cross-sectional multivariate approach to identify traders with high price impact. More information is co...
Article
In an insightful and influential paper, Mankiw et al. (1992, Quarterly Journal of Economics 107, 407–437) have suggested that an augmented Solow growth model can account for 80% of the variation in output per capita across countries due to different steady-state growth paths that result from differences in saving rates, education, and population gr...
Article
This paper examines the impacts of external price shocks in the Malaysian economy. There are three simulations are carried out with different degrees of external shocks using Malaysian Social Accounting Matrix (SAM) and Computable General Equilibrium (CGE) analysis. The model results indicate that the import price shocks, better known as external p...
Article
This paper measures the effect on the federal funds rate of an open-market operation. The paper deals with simultaneous-equations bias by developing a proxy for the errors the Federal Reserve makes in forecasting the extent to which Treasury operations will add or drain reserves available to private banks. These errors induce fluctuations in bank r...
Article
Many of the quarterly oil price increases observed since 1985 are corrections to even bigger oil price decreases the previous quarter. When one looks at the net increase in oil prices over the year, recent data are consistent with the historical correlation between oil shocks and recessions.
Article
This paper investigates the joint time series behavior of monthly stock returns and growth in industrial production. We find that stock returns are well characterized by year-long episodes of high volatility, separated by longer quiet periods. Real output growth, on the other hand, is subject to abrupt changes in the mean associated with economic r...
Article
The authors find that the composite leading index (CLI) is useful for forecasting gross national product (GNP), both in sample and in an out-of-sample real-time exercise. They propose a nonlinear specification in which cyclical shifts of the CLI precede those in GNP. However, the authors find that better forecasts are provided by a simple linear re...
Article
This paper reports overwhelming evidence against the hypothesis that the federal funds rate follows a martingale over the two-week reserve maintenance period, establishing that banks do not regard reserves held on different days of the week to be perfect substitutes. A theoretical model of the federal funds market is proposed that could account for...
Article
This paper develops a series of specification tests of Markov-switching time-series models. Tests for omitted autocorrelation, omitted ARCH, misspecification of the Markovian dynamics, and omitted explanatory variables are proposed. All of the tests can be constructed as a natural byproduct of the routine used to calculate the ‘smoothed’ probabilit...
Article
Many economic variables undergo episodes in which the behavior of the series changes quite dramatically. Sometimes this is caused by events such as wars, financial panics, and economic recessions. Abrupt departures from the historical pattern can also be the result of deliberate policy actions taken by the government. For example, if inflation has...
Article
ARCH models often impute a lot of persistence to stock volatility and yet give relatively poor forecasts. One explanation is that extremely large shocks, such as the October 1987 crash, arise from quite different causes and have different consequences for subsequent volatility than do small shocks. We explore this possibility with U.S. weekly stock...
Article
This chapter focuses on the estimation, inference and forecasting of time series subject to changes in regime, and explains that changes in regime are the result of processes largely unrelated to past realizations of the series and are not themselves directly observable. Changes in regime are the rule rather than the exception in economic and finan...
Article
Futures prices were well above spot prices for most commodities during most of the Great Depression; evidently the spectacular declines in agricultural prices caught many people by surprise. Based on the historical correlations between commodity prices and consumer prices, commodity markets anticipated stable consumer prices during the first year o...
Article
A vector autoregression is a reduced-form representation, and, therefore, would be expected to change when any structural equation in the system changes, regardless of whether economic decisions are forward-looking. Even so, a dynamic simulation of a model with unit roots will exhibit large cumulative errors, making it difficult to detect whether s...
Article
This article proposes a very tractable approach to estimating parameters for mixtures of normal distributions. The analyst proceeds as if, in addition to the data, he or she had observed some pseudo data points drawn from each distribution whose values reflect his or her priors. The approach eliminates the singularities associated with maximum like...
Article
This paper introduces an EM algorithm for obtaining maximum likelihood estimates of parameters for processes subject to discrete shifts in autoregressive parameters, with the shifts themselves modeled as the outcome of a discrete-valued Markov process. The simplicity of the EM algorithm permits potential application of the approach to large vector...
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The value of the dollar appears to move in one direction for long periods of time. The authors develop a new statistical model of exchange rate dynamics as a sequence of stochastic, segmented time trends. They reject the null hypothesis that exchange rates follow a random walk in favor of their model of long swings. The authors' model also generate...
Article
This paper models occasional, discrete shifts in the growth rate of a nonstationary series. Algorithms for inferring these unobserved shifts are presented, a byproduct of which permits estimation of parameters by maximum likelihood. An empirical application of this technique suggests that the periodic shift from a positive growth rate to a negative...
Article
The asymptotic distributions of cointegration tests are approximated using the Gamma distribution. The tests considered are for the I(1), the conditional I(1), as well as the I(2) model. Formulae for the parameters of the Gamma distributions are derived from response surfaces. The resulting approximation is flexible, easy to implement and more accu...
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This paper investigates a general equilibrium model of unemployment and the business cycle in which specialization of labor plays a key role. A rational expectations equilibrium with ful ly flexible wages and prices can exhibit unemployment in which the ma rginal product of employed workers exceeds the reservation wage of th ose who are without job...
Article
This paper is of interest both for its methodological contribution of new tools for analyzing rational-expectations models and for its substantive conclusions concerning the term structure of interest rates during the monetary experiment of October 1979.The paper studies systems subject to changes in regime, interpreted here as occasional, discrete...
Article
In this paper we analyse evidence for level breaks in the price series comprising the NASDAQ-100 index over the period 2001-2007. We make use of a recently developed methodology that allows robust inference regarding the presence of breaks to be drawn irrespective of whether or not a unit root is present in the data, and whether the underlying inno...
Article
I do not claim in this paper that the international gold standard was a principal cause of the Great Depression. Instead, I explore the events that allowed the world to slip deeper into depression despite the gold standard. The volatility of international short-term capital flows surely contributed greatly to the Depression. I argue that this volat...
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This paper examines the role of monetary policy in the early stages of the Great Depression and considers the mechanism whereby this policy may have affected real activity. I conclude that the depression was preceded by a dramatic shift towards a highly contractionary monetary policy. The economic impact of this policy seems unlikely to have come t...
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This paper motivates an estimate of the variance of the estimated state vectorxˆt in a state-space model when the vector of parameters characterizing system dynamics (θ) must be estimated from the data.
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Hamilton developed a technique for estimating financial market expectations of inflation based on the observed time-series properties of interest rates and inflation. The technique is based on a state-space representation derived from an underlying vector autoregressive process of the expected real interest rate and the expected inflation rate on l...
Article
Under a modest generalization of the dynamics permitted for variables which are seen by agents but not the econometrician, many of the existing tests for the presence of speculative bubbles are not statistically valid. Less restrictive tests lead us to concur with Flood and Garber that speculative bubbles were not part of the German hyperinflation,...
Article
This paper seeks to distinguish empirically between two views on the limitations of government borrowing. According to one view, nothing precludes the government from running a permanent budget deficit, paying interest due on the growing debt load simply by issuing new debt, An alternative perspective holds that creditors would be unwilling to purc...
Article
Turbulent petroleum markets and poor economic performance have been making headlines for the last decade. Three major oil shocks (1973-1974, 1979, and 1980-1981) have each been followed by major recessions. While the magnitude and violence of recent oil price changes are unique in postwar experience, the phenomenon of political instability producin...
Article
There are important controversies over the dynamics of terrorism which have not yet been formally addressed in quantitative social research. We suggest a class of stochastic models for social contagion which may help to shed light on these controversies. Empirical estimates of model parameters were obtained from data on international terrorism in 1...
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Full-text available
All but one of the U.S. recessions since World War II have been preceded, typically with a lag of around three-fourths of a year, by a dramatic increase in the price of crude petroleum. This does not mean that oil shocks caused these recessions. Evidence is presented, however, that even over the period 1948-72 this correlation is statistically sign...
Article
Seven of the eight US recessions since World War II have been preceded, typically with a lag of around 3/4 of a year, by a dramatic increase in the price of crude petroleum. That this correlation is more than just a coincidence is supported by parametric and nonparametric statistical tests on a variety of US time series and sample periods. Moreover...
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This paper presents a general mathematical framework for social processes characterized by contagion or learning, and examines several models, including two not previously seen in this literature, as special cases. We further outline a series of new statistical procedures for fitting and evaluating the appropriateness of alternative models of conta...
Article
Full-text available
This paper revisits the yield spread's usefulness for predicting future real GDP growth. We show that the contribution of the spread can be decomposed into the effect of expected future changes in short rates and the effect of the term premium. We find that both factors are relevant for predicting real GDP growth but the respective contributions di...
Article
Includes bibliographical references (p. 118-120). Senior Thesis--Colorado College. Department of Economics.