The IMF Working Papers series is designed to make IMF staff research available to a wide audience. Almost 300 Working Papers are released each year, covering a wide range of theoretical and analytical topics, including balance of payments, monetary and fiscal issues, global liquidity, and national and international economic developments.
We carry out an ex post assessment of popular models used to forecast oil prices and propose a host of alternative VAR models based on traditional global macroeconomic and oil market aggregates. While the exact specification of VAR models for nominal oil price prediction is still open to debate, the bias and underprediction in futures and random walk forecasts are larger across all horizons in relation to a large set of VAR specifications. The VAR forecasts generally have the smallest average forecast errors and the highest accuracy, with most specifications outperforming futures and random walk forecasts for horizons up to two years. This calls for caution in reliance on futures or the random walk for forecasting, particularly for near term predictions. Despite the overall strength of VAR models, we highlight some performance instability, with small alterations in specifications, subsamples or lag lengths providing widely different forecasts at times. Combining futures, random walk and VAR models for forecasting have merit for medium term horizons.