I am looking at finding correlations between house price time series and the time series of multiple indicators in an area. For example

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These two trends clearly show a sort of strong negative correlation.

Other indicators in this example could be income (expected positive correlation), crime (expected weak negative correlation), number of pizzas I've eaten that month (expected zero correlation).

I've read that cross-correlation if the method used to find a correlation between stationary time series but these are clearly non-stationary.

This is where I'm getting confused. Is it correct to detrend e.g. take the residual part of this plot:

enter image description here

and then perform cross-correlation on this, providing that it is stationary enough?

I'm struggling to believe this as I feel that if we do this, we're ignoring the key part of the information which is the overall trend of the two-series through time.

I feel that perhaps a better option is to take the trend and then perform e.g. first order differencing on it. And then hopefully providing that both of the differenced time series are stationary enough, performing cross correlation on that.

Which of these options, if either is correct?

  • $\begingroup$ Differencing is definitely a good start! $\endgroup$ – ERT Aug 10 '18 at 16:30
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    $\begingroup$ The discussion in this post makes it doubtful that your objective is to find correlations among time series, because it looks like you're perfectly willing to modify those series. Could you articulate your ultimate objective explicitly? $\endgroup$ – whuber Aug 10 '18 at 16:43
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    $\begingroup$ I'm sorry; that makes no sense, because you can always compute a Pearson correlation coefficient between two matched non-constant sequences of data. It's just a mathematical formula and it doesn't care about any "non-linear attributes" of the numbers. $\endgroup$ – whuber Aug 12 '18 at 0:53
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    $\begingroup$ Besides adjusting for intra-correlation as I have pointed out in my answer , the correlation coefficient should be calculated from modified data that controls for intervention administration, otherwise the intervention effects are taken to be Gaussian noise, underestimating the actual correlation. $\endgroup$ – IrishStat Aug 13 '18 at 11:11
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    $\begingroup$ That's getting closer to an answerable question, DaveJay. The problem is that the causal question you pose in your preceding comment is not directly answered by computing any kind of correlation coefficient. But let's put that aside for the moment. For assessing the apparent relationship, two features of your question are notable: (1) it concerns change and (2) it concerns a lag in time. That suggests examining lagged cross-correlations between the differenced time series. $\endgroup$ – whuber Aug 13 '18 at 13:15

Find correlation between two time series. Theory and practice (R) is a good place to start your education. Note the discussion that points to the flaw of interpreting ( not computing ! ) correlation coefficients when you have auto-correlated data ...as you do .

This problem was recognized for time series as early as 1926 by Yule in his presidential address to the Royal Statistical Society and nearly 100 years later we have Google https://www.google.com/trends/correlate/tutorial and tons of others promoting the erroneous interpretation ( i.e. using standard significance testing !) of time series correlations.

  • $\begingroup$ Thanks for the reference material, I'll study it properly when I'm back in work on Monday. From the rest of what you're saying, am I to interpret it as the calculated correlation coefficients will be useless to me? As this seems contradictory to the comments left by Whuber above who seems to imply that it's trivially easy to do so. $\endgroup$ – DaveJay Aug 10 '18 at 20:00
  • $\begingroup$ The distribution is affected by the autocorrelation in X and Y thus tests of statistical significance are affected. Ease of computation doesn't imply usability. $\endgroup$ – IrishStat Aug 10 '18 at 21:39
  • $\begingroup$ An important clarification ....The distribution is affected by the auto-correlation in X and Y thus "standard" tests of statistical significance are affected. Ease of computation doesn't imply usability. $\endgroup$ – IrishStat Aug 11 '18 at 12:13

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