Types of Data on R

Handling data on R

Handling data on R can be a simple process

There are different types of data on R. I use type here as a technical term, rather than merely a synonym of “variety”.  There are three main types of data:

  1. Numeric: ordinary numbers
  2. Character: not treated as a number, but as a word. You cannot add two characters, even if they appear to be numerical. Characters have “inverted commas” around them.
  3. Date: can be used in time series analysis, like a time series plot.

To diagnose the type of data you’re dealing with, use class()

You can convert data between types. To convert to:

  1. Numeric: as.numerical()
  2. Character: as.character()
  3. Date: as.Date()

Note that to convert a character or numeric to a date, you may need to specify the format of the date:

  • ddmmyyyy: as.Date(x, format=”%d%m%Y”) *default, so format needn’t be specified
  • mmddyyyy: as.Date(x, format=”%m%d%Y”)
  • dd-mm-yyyy: as.Date(x, format=”%d-%m-%Y”)
  • dd/mm/yyyy: as.Date(x, format=”%d/%m/%Y”)
  • if the month is named, like 12February1989: as.Date(x, format=”%d%B%Y”)
  • if the month is short-form named, like 12Feb1989: as.Date(x, format=”%d%b%Y”)
  • if the year is in two digit form, like 12Feb89: as.Date(x, format=”%d%m%y”)
  • if the date in mmyyyy form: as.yearmon(x, format=”%m%Y”) *from zoo package
  • if date includes time, like 21/05/2012 21:20:30: as.Date(x, format=”%d/%m/%Y %H:%M:%S)

Abbas Keshvani


Forecasting a Timeseries

Suppose you have decided on a suitable model for a timeseries. In this case, we have selected an ARIMA(2,1,3) model, using the Akaike Information Criteria (AIC) as our sole criterion for choosing between various models here, where we model the DJIA.

Note: There are many criteria for choosing a model, and the AIC is only one of them. Thus, the AIC should be used heuristically, in conjunction with t-tests and the Coefficient of Determination, among other statistics. Nonetheless, let us assume that we ran all these tests, and were still satisfied with ARIMA(2,1,3).

An ARIMA(2,1,3) looks like this:

\Delta Y_t = \phi_2 Y_{t-2} + \phi_1 Y_{t-1} + \theta_{3} \epsilon_{t-3} + \theta_{2} \epsilon_{t-2} + \theta_1 \epsilon_{t-1} + \epsilon_{t}

This is not very informative for forecasting future reaizations of a timeseries, because we need to know the values of the coefficients \phi_2, \phi_1, etcetera. So we use R’s arima() function, which spits out the following output:

ARIMA(2,1,3): Coefficients

ARIMA(2,1,3): Coefficients

Thus, we revise our model to:

\Delta Y_t = -0.992 Y_{t-2} + 0.1840 Y_{t-1} -0.0511 \epsilon_{t-3} + 1.0101 \epsilon_{t-2} + -0.2483 \epsilon_{t-1} + \epsilon_{t}

Then, we can forecast the next, say 20, realizations of the DJIA, to produce a forecast plot. We are forecasting values for January 1st 1990 to January 26th 1990, dates for which we have the real values. So, we can overlay these values on our forecast plot:

Forecast: Predicted range (shaded in light grey for 95% confidence, dark blue for 80% confidence) and Actual Values (red)

Forecast: Predicted range (shaded in light grey for 95% confidence, dark grey for 80% confidence) and Actual Values (red)

Note that the forecast is more accurate for predicting the DJIA a few days ahead than later dates. This could be due to:

  1. the model we use
  2. fundamental market movements that could not be forecasted

Which is why data in a vacuum is always pleasant to work with. Next: Data in a vacuum. I will look at data from the biggest vacuum of all – space.

Abbas Keshvani

How to Use Autocorrelation Function (ACF) to Determine Seasonality

In my previous post, I wrote about using the autocorrelation function (ACF) to determine if a timeseries is stationary. Now, let us use the ACF to determine seasonality. This is a relatively straightforward procedure.

Firstly, seasonality in a timeseries refers to predictable and recurring trends and patterns over a period of time, normally a year. An  example of a seasonal timeseries is retail data, which sees spikes in sales during holiday seasons like Christmas. Another seasonal timeseries is box office data, which sees a spike in sales of movie tickets over the summer season. Yet another example is sales of Hallmark cards, which spike in February for Valentine’s Day.

The below graphs show sales of clothing in the UK, and how these sales follow seasonal trends, spiking in the holiday season:

Clothing Sales in the UK

Clothing Sales in the UK

Clothing Sales in the UK: line graph

Clothing Sales in the UK: line graph

Note the spikes in sales, which obediently occur every December, in time for Christmas. This is evident in the trail of December plot points (Graph 1), which hover significantly above the sales data for other months, and also in the actual spikes of the line graph (Graph 2).

The above is a simple example of a seasonal timeseries. However, timeseries are not always simply seasonal. For example, a SARMA process comprises of seasonal, autoregressive, and moving average components, hence the acronym. This will not look as obviously seasonal, as the AR and MA processes may overlap with the seasonal process. Thus, a simple timeseries plot, as shown above, will not allow us to appreciate and identify the seasonal element in the series.

Thus, it may be advisable to use an autocorrelation function to determine seasonality. In the case of seasonality, we will observe an ACF as below:

ACF of UK clothing sales data

ACF of UK clothing sales data

Note that the ACF shows an oscillation, indicative of a seasonal series. Note the peaks occur at lags of 12 months, because April 2011 correlates with April 2012, and 24 months, because April 2011 correlates with April 2013, and so on.

The above analyses were conducted on R. Credits to data.gov.uk and the Office of National Statistics, UK for the data.

Abbas Keshvani

How to use the Autocorreation Function (ACF)?

The Autocorrelation function is one of the widest used tools in timeseries analysis. It is used to determine stationarity and seasonality.


This refers to whether the series is “going anywhere” over time. Stationary series have a constant value over time.

Below is what a non-stationary series looks like. Note the changing mean.

Time series plot of non-stationary series

Time series plot of non-stationary series

And below is what a stationary series looks like. This is the first difference of the above series, FYI. Note the constant mean (long term).

Stationary series: First difference of VWAP

Stationary series: First difference of VWAP

The above time series provide strong indications of (non) stationary, but the ACF helps us ascertain this indication.

If a series is non-stationary (moving), its ACF may look a little like this:

ACF of non-stationary series

ACF of non-stationary series

The above ACF is “decaying”, or decreasing, very slowly, and remains well above the significance range (dotted blue lines). This is indicative of a non-stationary series.

On the other hand, observe the ACF of a stationary (not going anywhere) series:

ACF of nonstationary series

ACF of stationary series

Note that the ACF shows exponential decay. This is indicative of a stationary series.

Consider the case of a simple stationary series, like the process shown below:

Y_t = \epsilon_t

We do not expect the ACF to be above the significance range for lags 1, 2, … This is intuitively satisfactory, because the above  process is purely random, and therefore whether you are looking at a lag of 1 or a lag of 20, the correlation should be theoretically zero, or at least insignificant.

Next: ACF for Seasonality

Abbas Keshvani