Understanding Sources of the Change in International Business Cycles


Macroeconomic activity has become less volatile over the past three decades in most G7 economies. Current literature focuses on the characterization of the volatility reduction and explanations for this so called "moderation" in each G7 economy separately. In opposed to individual country analysis and individual variable analysis, this paper focuses on common characteristics of the reduction and common explanations for the moderation in G7 countries. In particular, we study three explanations: structural changes in the economy, changes in common international shocks and changes in domestic shocks. We study these explanations in a unified model structure. To this end, we propose a Bayesian factor structural vector autoregressive model. Using the proposed model, we investigate whether we can find common explanations for all G7 economies when information is pooled from multiple domestic and international sources. Our empirical analysis suggests that volatility reductions can largely be attributed to the decline in the magnitudes of the shocks in most G7 countries while only for the U.K., the U.S. and Italy they can partially be attributed to structural changes in the economy. Analyzing the components of the volatility, we also find that domestic shocks rather than common international shocks can account for a large part of the volatility reduction in most of the G7 countries. Finally, we find that after mid-1980s the structure of the economy changes substantially in five of the G7 countries: Germany, Italy, Japan, the U.K. and the U.S.