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Price leadership and coordination in retail gasoline markets with price cycles

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  • Lewis, Matthew S.

Abstract

This study examines the coordination mechanism used by gasoline stations in the midwestern United States where prices exhibit highly cyclical fluctuations known as Edgeworth cycles. Stations in these markets repeatedly coordinate large marketwide price increases following periods of aggressive price undercutting. By studying these periodic price jumps both over time and across cities, I find that a particular retail chain in each city acts as a price leader initiating each price restoration. The leader signals the new price level to competitors by simultaneously jumping prices at all its stations to a single price. Competitors follow quickly with a large majority of stations jumping to the exact same price within a 24 hour period. The characteristics of the leading firms and the nature of observed price coordination suggest that successful price jumps may be facilitated by the existence of a retailer controlling the prices of a significant number of stations in a city. Identifying the important role of these firms in the market contributes to a broader understanding of price leadership and coordination and highlights another potential reason why price cycles exist in some in retail gasoline markets and not others.

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Bibliographic Info

Article provided by Elsevier in its journal International Journal of Industrial Organization.

Volume (Year): 30 (2012)
Issue (Month): 4 ()
Pages: 342-351

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Handle: RePEc:eee:indorg:v:30:y:2012:i:4:p:342-351

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Web page: http://www.elsevier.com/locate/inca/505551

Related research

Keywords: Price leadership; Coordination; Gasoline; Edgeworth Cycle;

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References

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  1. Zhongmin Wang, 2008. "Collusive Communication and Pricing Coordination in a Retail Gasoline Market," Review of Industrial Organization, Springer, vol. 32(1), pages 35-52, February.
  2. Michael D. Noel, 2008. "Edgeworth Price Cycles and Focal Prices: Computational Dynamic Markov Equilibria," Journal of Economics & Management Strategy, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 17(2), pages 345-377, 06.
  3. Maskin, Eric & Tirole, Jean, 1988. "A Theory of Dynamic Oligopoly, II: Price Competition, Kinked Demand Curves, and Edgeworth Cycles," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 56(3), pages 571-99, May.
  4. Matthew S. Lewis, 2009. "Temporary Wholesale Gasoline Price Spikes Have Long-Lasting Retail Effects: The Aftermath of Hurricane Rita," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 52(3), pages 581-605, 08.
  5. Benjamin Atkinson, 2009. "Retail Gasoline Price Cycles: Evidence from Guelph, Ontario Using Bi-Hourly, Station-Specific Retail Price Data," The Energy Journal, International Association for Energy Economics, vol. 0(Number 1), pages 85-110.
  6. Deneckere, Raymond J & Kovenock, Dan, 1992. "Price Leadership," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 59(1), pages 143-62, January.
    • Raymond Deneckere & Dan Kovenock, 1988. "Price Leadership," Discussion Papers 773, Northwestern University, Center for Mathematical Studies in Economics and Management Science.
  7. Andrew Eckert & Douglas S. West, 2004. "A tale of two cities: Price uniformity and price volatility in gasoline retailing," The Annals of Regional Science, Springer, vol. 38(1), pages 25-46, 03.
  8. Doyle, Joseph & Muehlegger, Erich & Samphantharak, Krislert, 2010. "Edgeworth cycles revisited," Energy Economics, Elsevier, vol. 32(3), pages 651-660, May.
  9. Deneckere, R. & Kovenock, D. & Lee, R.E., 1988. "A Model of Price Leadership Based on Consumer Loyalty," Purdue University Economics Working Papers 947, Purdue University, Department of Economics.
  10. Michael D. Noel, 2007. "EDGEWORTH PRICE CYCLES: EVIDENCE FROM THE TORONTO RETAIL GASOLINE MARKET -super-* ," Journal of Industrial Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 55(1), pages 69-92, 03.
  11. Rotemberg, Julio J & Saloner, Garth, 1990. "Collusive Price Leadership," Journal of Industrial Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 39(1), pages 93-111, September.
  12. Michael D. Noel, 2007. "Edgeworth Price Cycles, Cost-Based Pricing, and Sticky Pricing in Retail Gasoline Markets," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 89(2), pages 324-334, May.
  13. Eckert, Andrew, 2003. "Retail price cycles and the presence of small firms," International Journal of Industrial Organization, Elsevier, vol. 21(2), pages 151-170, February.
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Cited by:
  1. Paul Zimmerman & John Yun & Christopher Taylor, 2013. "Edgeworth Price Cycles in Gasoline: Evidence from the United States," Review of Industrial Organization, Springer, vol. 42(3), pages 297-320, May.
  2. Andreoli-Versbach, Patrick & Franck, Jens-Uwe, 2013. "Endogenous Price Commitment, Sticky and Leadership Pricing: Evidence from the Italian Petrol Market," Discussion Papers in Economics 16182, University of Munich, Department of Economics.

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