Determining the number of factors with potentially strong within-block correlations in error terms

Research output: Journal Publications and Reviews (RGC: 21, 22, 62)21_Publication in refereed journalpeer-review

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Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)946-969
Journal / PublicationEconometric Reviews
Issue number6-9
Online published24 Mar 2017
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2017


We develop methods to estimate the number of factors when error terms have potentially strong correlations in the cross-sectional dimension. The information criteria proposed by Bai and Ng (2002) require the cross-sectional correlations between the error terms to be weak. Violation of this weak correlation assumption may lead to inconsistent estimates of the number of factors. We establish two data-dependent estimators that are consistent whether the error terms are weakly or strongly correlated in the cross-sectional dimension. To handle potentially strong cross-sectional correlations between the error terms, we use a block structure in which the within-block correlation may either be weak or strong, but the between-block correlation is limited. Our estimators allow imperfect knowledge and a moderate misspecification of the block structure. Monte-Carlo simulation results show that our estimators perform similarly to existing methods for cases in which the conventional weak correlation assumption is satisfied. When the error terms have a strong cross-sectional correlation, our estimators outperform the existing methods.

Research Area(s)

  • Factor model, model selection