Macroeconomic analysis in Lebanon presents a distinct challenge. For example, long
delays in the publication of GDP data mean that our analysis often relies on proxy
variables, and resembles an extended version of the “nowcasting” challenge familiar to
many central banks. Addressing this problem—and mindful of the pitfalls of extracting
information from a large number of correlated proxies—we explore some recent
techniques from the machine learning literature. We focus on two popular techniques
(Elastic Net regression and Random Forests) and provide an estimation procedure that is
intuitively familiar and well suited to the challenging features of Lebanon’s data.