This paper examines whether the Conference Board's Leading Economic Index (LEI) can be used for modeling and forecasting a more refined business cycle classification beyond the usual distinction between expansions and contractions. Univariate Markov-switching models for monthly coincident variables and the LEI show that a three regime model is more appropriate than a model with only two regimes. Interestingly, the third regime captures `severe recessions' contrasting the conventional view that the additional third regime represents a 'recovery' phase. This is confirmed by means of Markov-switching vector autoregressive models that allow for phase shifts between the cyclical regimes of LEI and industrial production. Results indicate that a three regime model with a severe recession phase describes the cyclical dynamics in these series better than a two regime model (with only recession and expansion regimes) and a three regime model with a recovery phase. T he timing of the third regime mostly corresponds with periods of substantial credit squeezes and dramatic increases in the default spread as in the recent recession of 2007-2009. These findings provide empirical evidence for the theory of 'financial accelerator'. The severe recession regime of the LEI leads that of IP by 6.5 months whereas for mild recessions this lead time increases to one year.

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Tinbergen Institute
Tinbergen Institute Discussion Paper Series
Discussion paper / Tinbergen Institute
Tinbergen Institute

Cakmakli, C., Paap, R., & van Dijk, D. (2011). Measuring and Predicting Heterogeneous Recessions (No. TI 2011-154/4). Discussion paper / Tinbergen Institute (pp. 1–59). Retrieved from