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Forward recursion of diffuse state-space models



X = filter(Mdl,Y) returns filtered states (X) by performing forward recursion of the fully specified diffuse state-space model Mdl. That is, filter applies the diffuse Kalman filter using Mdl and the observed responses Y.


X = filter(Mdl,Y,Name,Value) uses additional options specified by one or more Name,Value pair arguments. For example, specify the regression coefficients and predictor data to deflate the observations, or specify to use the univariate treatment of a multivariate model.

If Mdl is not fully specified, then you must specify the unknown parameters as known scalars using the 'Params' Name,Value pair argument.


[X,logL,Output] = filter(___) additionally returns the loglikelihood value (logL) and an output structure array (Output) using any of the input arguments in the previous syntaxes. Output contains:

Input Arguments

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Diffuse state-space model, specified as an dssm model object returned by dssm or estimate.

If Mdl is not fully specified (that is, Mdl contains unknown parameters), then specify values for the unknown parameters using the 'Params' name-value pair argument. Otherwise, the software issues an error. estimate returns fully-specified state-space models.

Mdl does not store observed responses or predictor data. Supply the data wherever necessary using the appropriate input or name-value pair arguments.

Observed response data, specified as a numeric matrix or a cell vector of numeric vectors.

  • If Mdl is time invariant with respect to the observation equation, then Y is a T-by-n matrix, where each row corresponds to a period and each column corresponds to a particular observation in the model. T is the sample size and m is the number of observations per period. The last row of Y contains the latest observations.

  • If Mdl is time varying with respect to the observation equation, then Y is a T-by-1 cell vector. Each element of the cell vector corresponds to a period and contains an nt-dimensional vector of observations for that period. The corresponding dimensions of the coefficient matrices in Mdl.C{t} and Mdl.D{t} must be consistent with the matrix in Y{t} for all periods. The last cell of Y contains the latest observations.

NaN elements indicate missing observations. For details on how the Kalman filter accommodates missing observations, see Algorithms.

Name-Value Arguments

Specify optional pairs of arguments as Name1=Value1,...,NameN=ValueN, where Name is the argument name and Value is the corresponding value. Name-value arguments must appear after other arguments, but the order of the pairs does not matter.

Before R2021a, use commas to separate each name and value, and enclose Name in quotes.

Example: 'Beta',beta,'Predictors',Z specifies to deflate the observations by the regression component composed of the predictor data Z and the coefficient matrix beta.

Regression coefficients corresponding to predictor variables, specified as the comma-separated pair consisting of 'Beta' and a d-by-n numeric matrix. d is the number of predictor variables (see Predictors) and n is the number of observed response series (see Y).

If Mdl is an estimated state-space model, then specify the estimated regression coefficients stored in estParams.

Values for unknown parameters in the state-space model, specified as the comma-separated pair consisting of 'Params' and a numeric vector.

The elements of Params correspond to the unknown parameters in the state-space model matrices A, B, C, and D, and, optionally, the initial state mean Mean0 and covariance matrix Cov0.

  • If you created Mdl explicitly (that is, by specifying the matrices without a parameter-to-matrix mapping function), then the software maps the elements of Params to NaNs in the state-space model matrices and initial state values. The software searches for NaNs column-wise following the order A, B, C, D, Mean0, and Cov0.

  • If you created Mdl implicitly (that is, by specifying the matrices with a parameter-to-matrix mapping function), then you must set initial parameter values for the state-space model matrices, initial state values, and state types within the parameter-to-matrix mapping function.

If Mdl contains unknown parameters, then you must specify their values. Otherwise, the software ignores the value of Params.

Data Types: double

Predictor variables in the state-space model observation equation, specified as the comma-separated pair consisting of 'Predictors' and a T-by-d numeric matrix. T is the number of periods and d is the number of predictor variables. Row t corresponds to the observed predictors at period t (Zt). The expanded observation equation is


That is, the software deflates the observations using the regression component. β is the time-invariant vector of regression coefficients that the software estimates with all other parameters.

If there are n observations per period, then the software regresses all predictor series onto each observation.

If you specify Predictors, then Mdl must be time invariant. Otherwise, the software returns an error.

By default, the software excludes a regression component from the state-space model.

Data Types: double

Final period for diffuse state initialization, specified as the comma-separated pair consisting of 'SwitchTime' and a positive integer. That is, estimate uses the observations from period 1 to period SwitchTime as a presample to implement the exact initial Kalman filter (see Diffuse Kalman Filter and [1]). After initializing the diffuse states, estimate applies the standard Kalman filter to the observations from periods SwitchTime + 1 to T.

The default value for SwitchTime is the last period in which the estimated smoothed state precision matrix is singular (i.e., the inverse of the covariance matrix). This specification represents the fewest number of observations required to initialize the diffuse states. Therefore, it is a best practice to use the default value.

If you set SwitchTime to a value greater than the default, then the effective sample size decreases. If you set SwitchTime to a value that is fewer than the default, then estimate might not have enough observations to initialize the diffuse states, which can result in an error or improper values.

In general, estimating, filtering, and smoothing state-space models with at least one diffuse state requires SwitchTime to be at least one. The default estimation display contains the effective sample size.

Data Types: double

Forecast uncertainty threshold, specified as the comma-separated pair consisting of 'Tolerance' and a nonnegative scalar.

If the forecast uncertainty for a particular observation is less than Tolerance during numerical estimation, then the software removes the uncertainty corresponding to the observation from the forecast covariance matrix before its inversion.

It is best practice to set Tolerance to a small number, for example, le-15, to overcome numerical obstacles during estimation.

Example: 'Tolerance',le-15

Data Types: double

Univariate treatment of a multivariate series flag, specified as the comma-separated pair consisting of 'Univariate' and true or false. Univariate treatment of a multivariate series is also known as sequential filtering.

The univariate treatment can accelerate and improve numerical stability of the Kalman filter. However, all observation innovations must be uncorrelated. That is, DtDt' must be diagonal, where Dt, t = 1,...,T, is one of the following:

  • The matrix D{t} in a time-varying state-space model

  • The matrix D in a time-invariant state-space model

Example: 'Univariate',true

Data Types: logical

Output Arguments

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Filtered states, returned as a numeric matrix or a cell vector of numeric vectors.

If Mdl is time invariant, then the number of rows of X is the sample size, T, and the number of columns of X is the number of states, m. The last row of X contains the latest filtered states.

If Mdl is time varying, then X is a cell vector with length equal to the sample size. Cell t of X contains a vector of filtered states with length equal to the number of states in period t. The last cell of X contains the latest filtered states.

filter pads the first SwitchTime periods of X with zeros or empty cells. The zeros or empty cells represent the periods required to initialize the diffuse states.

Loglikelihood function value, returned as a scalar.

Missing observations and observations before SwitchTime do not contribute to the loglikelihood.

Filtering results by period, returned as a structure array.

Output is a T-by-1 structure, where element t corresponds to the filtering result at time t.

  • If Univariate is false (it is by default), then the following table outlines the fields of Output.

    FieldDescriptionEstimate of
    LogLikelihoodScalar loglikelihood objective function valueN/A
    FilteredStatesmt-by-1 vector of filtered statesE(xt|y1,...,yt)
    FilteredStatesCovmt-by-mt variance-covariance matrix of filtered statesVar(xt|y1,...,yt)
    ForecastedStatesmt-by-1 vector of state forecastsE(xt|y1,...,yt1)
    ForecastedStatesCovmt-by-mt variance-covariance matrix of state forecastsVar(xt|y1,...,yt1)
    ForecastedObsht-by-1 forecasted observation vectorE(yt|y1,...,yt1)
    ForecastedObsCovht-by-ht variance-covariance matrix of forecasted observationsVar(yt|y1,...,tt1)
    KalmanGainmt-by-nt adjusted Kalman gain matrixN/A
    DataUsedht-by-1 logical vector indicating whether the software filters using a particular observation. For example, if observation i at time t is a NaN, then element i in DataUsed at time t is 0.N/A

  • If Univarite is true, then the fields of Output are the same as in the previous table, except for the following amendments.

    ForecastedObsSame dimensions as if Univariate = 0, but only the first elements are equal

    n-by-1 vector of forecasted observation variances.

    The first element of this vector is equivalent to ForecastedObsCov(1,1) when Univariate is false. The rest of the elements are not necessarily equivalent to their corresponding values in ForecastObsCov when Univariate.

    KalmanGainSame dimensions as if Univariate is false, though KalmanGain might have different entries.

filter pads the first SwitchTime periods of the fields of Output with empty cells. These empty cells represent the periods required to initialize the diffuse states.


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Suppose that a latent process is a random walk. The state equation is


where ut is Gaussian with mean 0 and standard deviation 1.

Generate a random series of 100 observations from xt, assuming that the series starts at 1.5.

T = 100;
x0 = 1.5;
rng(1); % For reproducibility
u = randn(T,1);
x = cumsum([x0;u]);
x = x(2:end);

Suppose further that the latent process is subject to additive measurement error. The observation equation is


where εt is Gaussian with mean 0 and standard deviation 0.75. Together, the latent process and observation equations compose a state-space model.

Use the random latent state process (x) and the observation equation to generate observations.

y = x + 0.75*randn(T,1);

Specify the four coefficient matrices.

A = 1;
B = 1;
C = 1;
D = 0.75;

Create the diffuse state-space model using the coefficient matrices. Specify that the initial state distribution is diffuse.

Mdl = dssm(A,B,C,D,'StateType',2)
Mdl = 
State-space model type: dssm

State vector length: 1
Observation vector length: 1
State disturbance vector length: 1
Observation innovation vector length: 1
Sample size supported by model: Unlimited

State variables: x1, x2,...
State disturbances: u1, u2,...
Observation series: y1, y2,...
Observation innovations: e1, e2,...

State equation:
x1(t) = x1(t-1) + u1(t)

Observation equation:
y1(t) = x1(t) + (0.75)e1(t)

Initial state distribution:

Initial state means

Initial state covariance matrix
 x1  Inf 

State types

Mdl is an dssm model. Verify that the model is correctly specified using the display in the Command Window.

Filter states for periods 1 through 100. Plot the true state values and the filtered state estimates.

filteredX = filter(Mdl,y);

title({'State Values'})
legend({'True state values','Filtered state values'})

The true values and filter estimates are approximately the same, except for the first filtered state, which is zero.

Suppose that the linear relationship between unemployment rate and the nominal gross national product (nGNP) is of interest. Suppose further that unemployment rate is an AR(1) series. Symbolically, and in state-space form, the model is



  • xt is the unemployment rate at time t.

  • yt is the observed change in the unemployment rate being deflated by the return of nGNP (Zt).

  • ut is the Gaussian series of state disturbances having mean 0 and unknown standard deviation σ.

Load the Nelson-Plosser data set, which contains the unemployment rate and nGNP series, among other things.

load Data_NelsonPlosser

Preprocess the data by taking the natural logarithm of the nGNP series, and removing the starting NaN values from each series.

isNaN = any(ismissing(DataTable),2);       % Flag periods containing NaNs
gnpn = DataTable.GNPN(~isNaN);
y = diff(DataTable.UR(~isNaN));
T = size(gnpn,1);                          % The sample size
Z = price2ret(gnpn);

This example continues using the series without NaN values. However, using the Kalman filter framework, the software can accommodate series containing missing values.

Specify the coefficient matrices.

A = NaN;
B = NaN;
C = 1;

Create the state-space model using dssm by supplying the coefficient matrices and specifying that the state values come from a diffuse distribution. The diffuse specification indicates complete ignorance about the moments of the initial distribution.

StateType = 2;
Mdl = dssm(A,B,C,'StateType',StateType);

Estimate the parameters. Specify the regression component and its initial value for optimization using the 'Predictors' and 'Beta0' name-value pair arguments, respectively. Display the estimates and all optimization diagnostic information. Restrict the estimate of σ to all positive, real numbers.

params0 = [0.3 0.2]; % Initial values chosen arbitrarily
Beta0 = 0.1;
[EstMdl,estParams] = estimate(Mdl,y,params0,'Predictors',Z,'Beta0',Beta0,...
    'lb',[-Inf 0 -Inf]);
Method: Maximum likelihood (fmincon)
Effective Sample size:             60
Logarithmic  likelihood:     -110.477
Akaike   info criterion:      226.954
Bayesian info criterion:      233.287
           |      Coeff       Std Err    t Stat    Prob 
 c(1)      |   0.59436       0.09408     6.31738  0     
 c(2)      |   1.52554       0.10758    14.17991  0     
 y <- z(1) | -24.26161       1.55730   -15.57930  0     
           |    Final State   Std Dev     t Stat   Prob 
 x(1)      |   2.54764        0           Inf     0     

EstMdl is an ssm model, and you can access its properties using dot notation.

Filter the estimated diffuse state-space model. EstMdl does not store the data or the regression coefficients, so you must pass in them in using the name-value pair arguments 'Predictors' and 'Beta', respectively. Plot the estimated, filtered states.

filteredX = filter(EstMdl,y,'Predictors',Z,'Beta',estParams(end));

ylabel('Change in the unemployment rate')
title('Filtered Change in the Unemployment Rate')
axis tight

Estimate a diffuse state-space model, filter the states, and then extract other estimates from the Output output argument.

Consider the diffuse state-space model


The state variable x1,t is an AR(1) model with autoregressive coefficient ϕ. x2,t is a random walk. The disturbances u1,t and u2,t are independent Gaussian random variables with mean 0 and standard deviations σ1 and σ2, respectively. The observation yt is the error-free sum of x1,t and x2,t.

Generate data from the state-space model. To simulate the data, suppose that the sample size T=100, ϕ=0.6, σ1=0.2, σ2=0.1, and x1,0=x2,0=2.

rng(1); % For reproducibility
T = 100;
ARMdl = arima('AR',0.6,'Constant',0,'Variance',0.2^2);
x1 = simulate(ARMdl,T,'Y0',2);
u3 = 0.1*randn(T,1);
x3 = cumsum([2;u3]);
x3 = x3(2:end);
y = x1 + x3;

Specify the coefficient matrices of the state-space model. To indicate unknown parameters, use NaN values.

A = [NaN 0; 0 1];
B = [NaN 0; 0 NaN];
C = [1 1];

Create a diffuse state-space model that describes the model above. Specify that x1,t and x2,t have diffuse initial state distributions.

StateType = [2 2];
Mdl = dssm(A,B,C,'StateType',StateType);

Estimate the unknown parameters of Mdl. Choose initial parameter values for optimization. Specify that the standard deviations are constrained to be positive, but all other parameters are unconstrained using the 'lb' name-value pair argument.

params0 = [0.01 0.1 0.01]; % Initial values chosen arbitrarily
EstMdl = estimate(Mdl,y,params0,'lb',[-Inf 0 0]);
Method: Maximum likelihood (fmincon)
Effective Sample size:             98
Logarithmic  likelihood:      3.44283
Akaike   info criterion:    -0.885655
Bayesian info criterion:      6.92986
      |     Coeff      Std Err   t Stat     Prob  
 c(1) | 0.54134       0.20494    2.64145  0.00826 
 c(2) | 0.18439       0.03305    5.57897   0      
 c(3) | 0.11783       0.04347    2.71039  0.00672 
      |  Final State   Std Dev    t Stat    Prob  
 x(1) | 0.24884       0.17168    1.44943  0.14722 
 x(2) | 1.73762       0.17168   10.12121   0      

The parameters are close to their true values.

Filter the states of EstMdl, and request all other available output.

[X,logL,Output] = filter(EstMdl,y);

X is a T-by-2 matrix of filtered states, logL is the final optimized log-likelihood value, and Output is a structure array containing various estimates that the Kalman filter requires. List the fields of output using fields.

ans = 9x1 cell
    {'LogLikelihood'      }
    {'FilteredStates'     }
    {'FilteredStatesCov'  }
    {'ForecastedStates'   }
    {'ForecastedObs'      }
    {'ForecastedObsCov'   }
    {'KalmanGain'         }
    {'DataUsed'           }

Convert Output to a table.

OutputTbl = struct2table(Output);
OutputTbl(1:10,1:5) % Display first ten rows of first five variables
ans=10×5 table
    LogLikelihood    FilteredStates    FilteredStatesCov    ForecastedStates    ForecastedStatesCov
    _____________    ______________    _________________    ________________    ___________________

    {0x0 double}      {0x0 double}       {0x0 double}         {0x0 double}         {0x0 double}    
    {0x0 double}      {0x0 double}       {0x0 double}         {0x0 double}         {0x0 double}    
    {[  0.1827]}      {2x1 double}       {2x2 double}         {2x1 double}         {2x2 double}    
    {[  0.0972]}      {2x1 double}       {2x2 double}         {2x1 double}         {2x2 double}    
    {[  0.4472]}      {2x1 double}       {2x2 double}         {2x1 double}         {2x2 double}    
    {[  0.2073]}      {2x1 double}       {2x2 double}         {2x1 double}         {2x2 double}    
    {[  0.5167]}      {2x1 double}       {2x2 double}         {2x1 double}         {2x2 double}    
    {[  0.2389]}      {2x1 double}       {2x2 double}         {2x1 double}         {2x2 double}    
    {[  0.5064]}      {2x1 double}       {2x2 double}         {2x1 double}         {2x2 double}    
    {[ -0.0105]}      {2x1 double}       {2x2 double}         {2x1 double}         {2x2 double}    

The first two rows of the table contain empty cells or zeros. These correspond to the observations required to initialize the diffuse Kalman filter. That is, SwitchTime is 2.

SwitchTime = 2;

Plot the filtered and forecasted states.

ForeX = cell2mat(OutputTbl.ForecastedStates')'; % Orient forecasted states
ForeX = [zeros(SwitchTime,2);ForeX]; % Include zeros for initialization

ylabel('State estimate');
title('State 1 Estimates')
grid on;

ylabel('State estimate');
title('State 2 Estimates')
grid on;


  • Mdl does not store the response data, predictor data, and the regression coefficients. Supply the data wherever necessary using the appropriate input or name-value pair arguments.

  • It is a best practice to allow filter to determine the value of SwitchTime. However, in rare cases, you might experience numerical issues during estimation, filtering, or smoothing diffuse state-space models. For such cases, try experimenting with various SwitchTime specifications, or consider a different model structure (e.g., simplify or reverify the model). For example, convert the diffuse state-space model to a standard state-space model using ssm.

  • To accelerate estimation for low-dimensional, time-invariant models, set 'Univariate',true. Using this specification, the software sequentially updates rather then updating all at once during the filtering process.


  • The Kalman filter accommodates missing data by not updating filtered state estimates corresponding to missing observations. In other words, suppose there is a missing observation at period t. Then, the state forecast for period t based on the previous t – 1 observations and filtered state for period t are equivalent.

  • For explicitly defined state-space models, filter applies all predictors to each response series. However, each response series has its own set of regression coefficients.

  • The diffuse Kalman filter requires presample data. If missing observations begin the time series, then the diffuse Kalman filter must gather enough nonmissing observations to initialize the diffuse states.

  • For diffuse state-space models, filter usually switches from the diffuse Kalman filter to the standard Kalman filter when the number of cumulative observations and the number of diffuse states are equal. However, if a diffuse state-space model has identifiability issues (e.g., the model is too complex to fit to the data), then filter might require more observations to initialize the diffuse states. In extreme cases, filter requires the entire sample.


[1] Durbin J., and S. J. Koopman. Time Series Analysis by State Space Methods. 2nd ed. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012.

Version History

Introduced in R2015b