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Multimarket Oligopoly


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Actions a firm takes in one market may affect its profitability in other markets, beyond any joint economies or diseconomies in production. The reason is that an action in one market, by changing marginal costs in a second market, may change competitors' strategies in that second market. We show how to calculate the strategic consequences in market 2, of a change in conditions in market 1 or of a firm's action in market 1. Qualitatively, the same results hold for both simultaneous markets and sequential markets: whether a more aggressive (i.e., lower price or higher quantity) strategy in the first market provides strategic costs or benefits depends on (a) whether competitors' products are strategic substitutes or strategic complements. The latter distinction is determined by whether more aggressive play by one firm in a market raises or lowers competing firms' marginal profitabilities in that market. We discuss applications to how firms select "portfolios" of businesses in which to compete, to rational retaliation as a barrier to entry, to international trade, and to the learning curve. Both strategic substitutes competition and strategic complements competition are compatible with either quantity competition or price competition. For example, strategic complements competition arises from price competition with linear demand and from quantity competition with constant elasticity demand. The distinction between strategic substitutes and strategic complements is also important in other areas of industrial organization. For example, we show that with strategic complements competition firms will strategically underinvest in fixed costs. This contrasts with earlier studies which, focusing on the total profits of potential entrants rather than the marginal profits of established competitors, invariably emphasized the use of excess capacity.

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Paper provided by Cowles Foundation for Research in Economics, Yale University in its series Cowles Foundation Discussion Papers with number 674.

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Length: 57 pages
Date of creation: Aug 1983
Date of revision:
Publication status: Published in Journal of Political Economy (1980), 93(3): 488-511
Handle: RePEc:cwl:cwldpp:674

Note: CFP 620.
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Postal: Yale University, Box 208281, New Haven, CT 06520-8281 USA
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Postal: Cowles Foundation, Yale University, Box 208281, New Haven, CT 06520-8281 USA

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  1. Barbara J. Spencer & James A. Brander, 1982. "Tariff Protection and Imperfect Competition," Working Papers 517, Queen's University, Department of Economics.
  2. Schmalensee, Richard, 1983. "Advertising and Entry Deterrence: An Exploratory Model," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 91(4), pages 636-53, August.
  3. Eaton, Jonathan & Grossman, Gene M, 1986. "Optimal Trade and Industrial Policy under Oligopoly," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 101(2), pages 383-406, May.
  4. Milgrom, Paul & Roberts, John, 1982. "Limit Pricing and Entry under Incomplete Information: An Equilibrium Analysis," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 50(2), pages 443-59, March.
  5. Avinash Dixit, 1979. "A Model of Duopoly Suggesting a Theory of Entry Barriers," Bell Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 10(1), pages 20-32, Spring.
  6. Kenneth L. Judd, 1983. "Credible Spatial Preemption," Discussion Papers 577, Northwestern University, Center for Mathematical Studies in Economics and Management Science.
  7. Jeremy I. Bulow & John Geanakoplos, 1983. "Strategic Resource Extraction: When Easy Doesn't Do It," Cowles Foundation Discussion Papers 675, Cowles Foundation for Research in Economics, Yale University.
  8. Spulber, Daniel F, 1981. "Capacity, Output, and Sequential Entry," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 71(3), pages 503-14, June.
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