THE PAKISTAN DEVELOPMENT REVIEW
The Unreliability of Output-Gap Estimates in Real Time
Most research on monetary policy assumes availability of information regarding the current state of economy, at the time of the policy decision. A key challenge for policy-makers is to find indicators that give a clear and precise signal of the state of the economy in real time—that is, when policy decisions are actually taken. One of the indicators used to asses the economic condition is the output gap; and the estimates of output gap from real time data misrepresents the true state of economy. So the policy decisions taken on the basis of real time noisy data are proved wrong when true data become available. Within this context we find evidence of wrong estimates of output gap in real time data. This is done by comparing estimates of output gap based on real time data with that in the revised data. The quasi real time data are also constructed such that the difference between estimates of output gap from real time data and that from quasi real time data reflects data revision and the difference between estimates of output gap from final data and that from quasi real time data portray other revisions including end sample bias. Moreover, output gap is estimated with the help of five methods namely the linear trend method, quadratic trend method, Hordrick-Prescott (HP) filter, production function method, and structural vector autoregressive method. Results indicate that the estimates of output gap in real time data are different from what have been found in final data but other revisions, compared to data revisions, are found more significant. Moreover, the output gap measured using all the methods, except the linear trend method, appropriately portray the state of economy in the historical context. It is also found that recessions can be better predicted by real time data instead of revised data, and final data show more intensity of recession compared with what has been shown in real time data.