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Forecasting Current-Quarter U.S. Exports Using Satellite Data

Jun Nie and Amy Oksol
Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City, Economic Review, Second Quarter 2018


"In this analysis, we use nighttime lights data to forecast current-quarter U.S. export growth. We focus on current-quarter forecasts because a better estimate of current exports will establish a base for forecasting future exports. We find nighttime lights data are helpful overall in forecasting current-quarter U.S. export growth, largely due to more frequent data. In particular, we find that using monthly nighttime lights data generates a smaller forecast error than using quarterly foreign GDP. When using quarterly data for both lights and foreign GDP, however, GDP data outperform lights data."