Time Series Forecasting: KNN vs. ARIMA

It is always hard to find a proper model to forecast time series
data. One of the reasons is that models that use time-series data
often expose to serial correlation. In this article, we will
compare k nearest neighbor (KNN) regression which is a supervised
machine learning method, with a more classical and stochastic
process, autoregressive integrated moving average (ARIMA).

We will use the monthly prices of refined gold
futures(XAUTRY) for one gram in Turkish Lira
traded on BIST(Istanbul Stock Exchange) for
forecasting. We created the data frame starting from 2013. You can
download the relevant excel file from

#building the time series data

df_xautry <- read_excel("xau_try.xlsx")
xautry_ts <- ts(df_xautry$price,start = c(2013,1),frequency
= 12)

KNN Regression

We are going to use tsfknn package which can be
used to forecast time series in R programming
. KNN regression process consists of
instance, features, and targets components. Below
is an example to understand the components and the process.

pred <- knn_forecasting(xautry_ts, h = 6, lags =
autoplot(pred, highlight = "neighbors",faceting = TRUE)

The lags parameter indicates the lagged values
of the time series data. The lagged values are used as features or
explanatory variables. In this example, because our time series
data is monthly, we set the parameters to 1:12. The last 12
observations of the data build the instance, which
is shown by purple points on the graph.

This instance is used as a reference vector to
find features that are the closest vectors to that
instance. The relevant distance metric is calculated by the
Euclidean formula as shown below:

\sqrt {\displaystyle\sum_{x=1}^{n} (f_{x}^i-q_x)^2 }

q_x denotes the instance and f_{x}^i indicates the features that are ranked in order by
the distance metric. The k parameter determines the number of k
closest features vectors which are called k nearest

nearest_neighbors function shows the instance,
k nearest neighbors, and the targets.

#Lag 12 Lag 11 Lag 10  Lag 9  Lag 8  Lag 7  Lag 6  Lag 5  Lag
4  Lag 3  Lag 2
#272.79 277.55 272.91 291.12 306.76 322.53 345.28 382.02
384.06 389.36 448.28
# Lag 1
#  Lag 12 Lag 11 Lag 10  Lag 9  Lag 8  Lag 7  Lag 6  Lag 5 
Lag 4  Lag 3  Lag 2
#1 240.87 245.78 248.24 260.94 258.68 288.16 272.79 277.55
272.91 291.12 306.76
#2 225.74 240.87 245.78 248.24 260.94 258.68 288.16 272.79
277.55 272.91 291.12
#3 223.97 225.74 240.87 245.78 248.24 260.94 258.68 288.16
272.79 277.55 272.91
#   Lag 1     H1     H2     H3     H4     H5     H6
#1 322.53 345.28 382.02 384.06 389.36 448.28 462.59
#2 306.76 322.53 345.28 382.02 384.06 389.36 448.28
#3 291.12 306.76 322.53 345.28 382.02 384.06 389.36

Targets are the time-series data that come
right after the nearest neighbors and their number is the value of
the h parameter. The targets of the nearest
neighbors are averaged to forecast the future h periods.

\displaystyle\sum_{i=1}^k \frac {t^i} {k}

As you can see from the above plotting, features or targets
might overlap the instance. This is because the time series data
has no seasonality and is in a specific uptrend. This process we
mentioned so far is called
MIMO(multiple-input-multiple-output) strategy that
is a forecasting method used as a default with KNN.

Decomposing and analyzing the time
series data

Before we mention the model, we first analyze the time series
data on whether there is
The decomposition analysis
is used to calculate the strength of
seasonality which is described as shown below:

#Seasonality and trend measurements
fit <- stl(xautry_ts,s.window = "periodic",t.window =
13,robust = TRUE)
seasonality <- fit %>% seasonal()
trend <- fit %>% trendcycle()
remain <- fit %>% remainder()
#[1] 0.990609
#[1] 0.2624522

The stl function is a decomposing time series
method. STL is short for seasonal and trend decomposition using
loess, which loess is a method for estimating nonlinear
relationships. The t.window(trend window) is the
number of consecutive observations to be used for estimating the
trend and should be odd numbers. The s.window(seasonal window) is
the number of consecutive years to estimate each value in the
seasonal component, and in this example, is set to
'periodic' to be the same for all years. The
robust parameter is set to 'TRUE'
which means that the outliers won't affect the estimations of trend
and seasonal components.

When we examine the results from the above code chunk, it is
seen that there is a strong uptrend with 0.99, weak seasonality
strength with 0.26, because that any value less than 0.4 is
accepted as a negligible seasonal effect. Because of that, we will
prefer the non-seasonal ARIMA model.

Non-seasonal ARIMA

This model consists of differencing with autoregression and
moving average. Let's explain each part of the model.

Differencing: First of all, we have to explain
stationary data. If data doesn't contain
information pattern like trend or seasonality in other words is
white noise that data is stationary. White noise
time series has no autocorrelation at all.

Differencing is a simple arithmetic operation that extracts the
difference between two consecutive observations to make that data


The above equation shows the first differences that difference
at lag 1. Sometimes, the first difference is not enough to obtain
stationary data, hence, we might have to do differencing of the
time series data one more time(second-order

In autoregressive models, our target variable
is a linear combination of its own lagged variables. This means the
explanatory variables of the target variable are past values of
that target variable. The AR(p) notation denotes
the autoregressive model of order p and the
\boldsymbol\epsilon_t denotes the white noise.

y_t=c + \phi_1 y_{t-1}+ \phi_2y_{t-2}+...+\phi_py_{t-p}+\epsilon_t

Moving average models, unlike autoregressive
models, they use past error(white noise) values for predictor
variables. The MA(q) notation denotes the
autoregressive model of order q.

y_t=c + \theta_1 \epsilon_{t-1}+ \theta_2\epsilon_{t-2}+...+\theta_q\epsilon_{t-q}

If we integrate differencing with autoregression and the moving
average model, we obtain a non-seasonal ARIMA model which is short
for the autoregressive integrated moving average.

y_t' is the differenced data and we must remember it may
have been first and second order. The explanatory variables are
both lagged values of y_t and past forecast errors. This is denoted as
ARIMA(p,d,q) where p; the order
of the autoregressive; d, degree of first
differencing; q, the order of the moving

Modeling with non-seasonal ARIMA

Before we model the data, first we split the data as train and
test to calculate accuracy for the ARIMA model.

#Splitting time series into training and test data
test <- window(xautry_ts, start=c(2019,3))
train <- window(xautry_ts, end=c(2019,2))

#ARIMA modeling
fit_arima<- auto.arima(train, seasonal=FALSE,
#Series: train
#ARIMA(0,1,2) with drift
#          ma1      ma2   drift
#      -0.1539  -0.2407  1.8378
#s.e.   0.1129   0.1063  0.6554
#sigma^2 estimated as 86.5:  log likelihood=-264.93
#AIC=537.85   AICc=538.44   BIC=547.01

As seen above code chunk, stepwise=FALSE, approximation=FALSE
parameters are used to amplify the searching for all possible model
options. The drift component indicates the
constant c which is the average change in the
historical data. From the results above, we can see that there is
no autoregressive part of the model, but a second-order moving
average with the first differencing.

Modeling with KNN

#Modeling and forecasting
pred <- knn_forecasting(xautry_ts, h = 18, lags =

#Forecasting plotting for KNN
autoplot(pred, highlight = "neighbors", faceting = TRUE)

Forecasting and accuracy comparison
between the models

#ARIMA accuracy
f_arima<- fit_arima %>% forecast(h =18) %>%
#                 RMSE       MAE      MAPE     
#Training set  9.045488  5.529203  4.283023
#Test set     94.788638 74.322505 20.878096

For forecasting accuracy, we take the results of the test set
shown above.

#Forecasting plot for ARIMA
fit_arima %>% forecast(h=18) %>% autoplot()+

#KNN Accuracy
ro <- rolling_origin(pred, h = 18,rolling = FALSE)
#  RMSE       MAE      MAPE
#137.12465 129.77352  40.22795

The rolling_origin function is used to evaluate
the accuracy based on rolling origin. The rolling
parameter should be set to FALSE which makes the
last 18 observations as the test set and the remaining as the
training set; just like we did for ARIMA modeling before. The test
set would not be a constant vector if we had set the rolling
parameter to its default value of TRUE. Below, there is an example
for h=6 that rolling_origin parameter set to TRUE. You can see the
test set dynamically changed from 6 to 1 and they eventually build
as a matrix, not a constant vector.

#Accuracy plot for KNN

When we compare the results of the accuracy measurements like
RMSE or MAPE, we can easily see that the ARIMA model is much better
than the KNN model for our non-seasonal time series data.

The original article is