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The cyclicality of Mark-ups and Profit Margins: Some Evidence for Manufacturing and Services

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  • Ian Small
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    Abstract

    This paper uses industry and firm data to look at price cost mark-ups and firm profit margins in UK manufacturing and services. In particular it examines how they behave over the business cycle. It has two main findings. First, the estimated average mark-ups and the profit margin results both suggest that there is imperfect competition in manufacturing and services. Second, mark-ups are pro-cyclical, as are profit margins even after allowing for movements in their standard determinants. This suggests that price pressures may increase during recovery periods and decrease during recessions. One possible explanation for this is Kreps and Scheinkman's argument that the pro-cyclicality of capacity constraints means that firms move between Cournot and Bertrand competition over the cycle. The finding that mark-ups are pro- cyclical also raises doubts about macroeconomic models that assume that demand shocks may affect employment via counter-cyclical mark-ups.

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    File URL: http://www.bankofengland.co.uk/archive/Documents/historicpubs/workingpapers/1997/wp72.pdf
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    Bibliographic Info

    Paper provided by Bank of England in its series Bank of England working papers with number 72.

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    Date of creation: Dec 1997
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    Handle: RePEc:boe:boeewp:72

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    1. Layard, R & Nickell, S, 1989. "The Thatcher Miracle?," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 79(2), pages 215-19, May.
    2. Bean, Charles R & Symons, James, 1989. "Ten Years of Mrs. T," CEPR Discussion Papers 316, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
      • Charles Bean & James Symons, 1989. "Ten Years of Mrs. T," NBER Chapters, in: NBER Macroeconomics Annual 1989, Volume 4, pages 13-72 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    3. Ian Domowitz & R. Glenn Hubbard & Bruce C. Petersen, 1986. "Business Cycles and the Relationship Between Concentration and Price-Cost Margins," RAND Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 17(1), pages 1-17, Spring.
    4. Roeger, Werner, 1995. "Can Imperfect Competition Explain the Difference between Primal and Dual Productivity Measures? Estimates for U.S. Manufacturing," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 103(2), pages 316-30, April.
    5. Julio J. Rotemberg & Michael Woodford, 1991. "Markups and the Business Cycle," NBER Chapters, in: NBER Macroeconomics Annual 1991, Volume 6, pages 63-140 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    6. Robert E. Hall, 1986. "Market Structure and Macroeconomic Fluctuations," Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Economic Studies Program, The Brookings Institution, vol. 17(2), pages 285-338.
    7. Green, Edward J & Porter, Robert H, 1984. "Noncooperative Collusion under Imperfect Price Information," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 52(1), pages 87-100, January.
    8. Machin, Stephen & Van Reenen, John, 1993. "Profit Margins and the Business Cycle: Evidence from UK Manufacturing Firms," Journal of Industrial Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 41(1), pages 29-50, March.
    9. Cowling, Keith & Waterson, Michael, 1976. "Price-Cost Margins and Market Structure," Economica, London School of Economics and Political Science, vol. 43(171), pages 267-74, August.
    10. Haskel, Jonathan & Martin, Christopher & Small, Ian, 1995. "Price, Marginal Cost and the Business Cycle," Oxford Bulletin of Economics and Statistics, Department of Economics, University of Oxford, vol. 57(1), pages 25-41, February.
    11. Robert E. Hall, 1986. "The Relation Between Price and Marginal Cost in U.S. Industry," NBER Working Papers 1785, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    12. Rotemberg, Julio J & Saloner, Garth, 1986. "A Supergame-Theoretic Model of Price Wars during Booms," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 76(3), pages 390-407, June.
    13. Domowitz, Ian & Hubbard, R Glenn & Petersen, Bruce C, 1988. "Market Structure and Cyclical Fluctuations in U.S. Manufacturing," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 70(1), pages 55-66, February.
    14. Catherine J. Morrison, 1990. "Market Power, Economic Profitability and Productivity Growth Measurement: An Integrated Structural Approach," NBER Working Papers 3355, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    15. Clarke, Roger & Davies, Stephen W, 1982. "Market Structure and Price-Cost Margins," Economica, London School of Economics and Political Science, vol. 49(195), pages 277-87, August.
    16. Bils, Mark, 1989. "Pricing in a Customer Market," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 104(4), pages 699-718, November.
    17. Weitzman, Martin L, 1982. "Increasing Returns and the Foundations of Unemployment Theory," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 92(368), pages 787-804, December.
    18. Arellano, Manuel & Bond, Stephen, 1991. "Some Tests of Specification for Panel Data: Monte Carlo Evidence and an Application to Employment Equations," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 58(2), pages 277-97, April.
    19. Morrison, C J, 1994. "The Cyclical Nature of Markups in Canadian Manufacturing: A Production Theory Approach," Journal of Applied Econometrics, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 9(3), pages 269-82, July-Sept.
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    Cited by:
    1. Nicoletta Batini & Richard Harrison & Stephen P. Millard, 2001. "Monetary policy rules for an open economy," Proceedings, Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, issue Mar.
    2. H. Dawid & S. Gemkow & P. Harting & K. Kabus & K. Wersching & M. Neugart, 2008. "Skills, Innovation, and Growth: An Agent-Based Policy Analysis," Journal of Economics and Statistics (Jahrbuecher fuer Nationaloekonomie und Statistik), Justus-Liebig University Giessen, Department of Statistics and Economics, vol. 228(2+3), pages 251-275, June.
    3. Altomonte, Carlo & Nicolini, Marcella, 2012. "Economic integration and the dynamics of firms’ competitive behavior," Structural Change and Economic Dynamics, Elsevier, vol. 23(4), pages 383-402.

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