Does Financial Structure Matter for the Information Content of Financial Indicators?

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Of particular concern to monetary policy-makers is the considerable unreliability of financial variables for predicting GDP growth and inflation. As Stock and Watson (2003) find, some financial variables work well in some countries or over some time periods and forecast horizons, but the results do not show any clear pattern. This may be caused by the changing nature of financial structures within countries across time, or the differing types of financial structures across countries. The authors assess the extent to which financial structure across countries influences the information content of financial variables for predicting real GDP growth and inflation. Their assumption is that financial asset prices will dominate financial quantities in economies with highly developed market-based financial systems.

The authors use standard methods to determine the predictive content of common financial asset prices and quantities for 29 countries. They find no systematic pattern between financial structure and whether financial asset prices or quantities are the best financial indicators for monetary policy. Importantly, financial quantities are sometimes the best financial indicator, even in economies with highly developed market-based financial systems. The authors conclude that it would be difficult to tell, a priori, whether a financial asset price or quantity would be the best indicator for monetary policy for a particular country at a particular point in time.