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Inventories, liquidity, and the macroeconomy

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  • Yi Wen
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Abstract

It is widely believed in the literature that inventory fluctuations are destabilizing to the economy. This paper re-assesses this view by developing an analytically-tractable general-equilibrium model of inventory dynamics based on a precautionary stockout-avoidance motive. The model's predictions are broadly consistent with the U.S. business cycle and key features of inventory behavior, including (i) a large inventory stock-to-sales ratio and a small inventory investment-to-sales ratio in the long run, (ii) excess volatility of production relative to sales, (iii) procyclical inventory investment but countercyclical stock-to-sales ratio over the business cycle, and (iv) more volatile input inventories than output inventories. However, contrary to common beliefs, the model predicts that inventories are stabilizing, rather than destabilizing. The volatility of aggregate output could rise by 30% if inventories were eliminated from the economy. Key to this seemingly counter-intuitive result is that a stockout-avoidance motive leads to procyclical liquidity-value of inventories (hence, procyclical relative prices of final goods), which acts as an automatic stabilizer that discourages final sales in a boom and encourages final sales during a recession, thereby reducing the variability of GDP.

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Paper provided by Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis in its series Working Papers with number 2008-045.

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Date of creation: 2008
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Handle: RePEc:fip:fedlwp:2008-045

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Keywords: Inventories ; Liquidity (Economics) ; Business cycles;

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  1. Martin S. Eichenbaum, 1988. "Some Empirical Evidence on the Production Level and Production Cost Smoothing Models of Inventory Investment," NBER Working Papers 2523, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. Mark Bils & James Kahn, 1998. "What inventory behavior tells us about business cycles," Research Paper 9817, Federal Reserve Bank of New York.
  3. James A. Kahn & Margaret M. McConnell & Gabriel Perez-Quiros, 2002. "On the causes of the increased stability of the U.S. economy," Economic Policy Review, Federal Reserve Bank of New York, issue May, pages 183-202.
  4. Fisher, Jonas D M & Hornstein, Andreas, 2000. "(S, s) Inventory Policies in General Equilibrium," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 67(1), pages 117-45, January.
  5. Brad R Humphreys & Louis J Maccini & Scott Schuh, 2000. "Input and Output Inventories," Economics Working Paper Archive 426, The Johns Hopkins University,Department of Economics.
  6. Aubhik Khan & Julia Thomas, 2003. "Inventories and the Business Cycle: An Equilibrium Analysis of (S,s) Policies," NBER Working Papers 10078, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  7. Matthew D. Shapiro, 1984. "The Dynamic Demand for Capital and Labor," Cowles Foundation Discussion Papers 735, Cowles Foundation for Research in Economics, Yale University.
  8. Daniele Coen-Pirani, 2004. "Markups, Aggregation, and Inventory Adjustment," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 94(5), pages 1328-1353, December.
  9. Kydland, Finn E & Prescott, Edward C, 1982. "Time to Build and Aggregate Fluctuations," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 50(6), pages 1345-70, November.
  10. John Haltiwanger & Louis Maccini, 1984. "A Model of Inventory and Layoff Behavior Under Uncertainty," UCLA Economics Working Papers 321, UCLA Department of Economics.
  11. West, Kenneth D, 1986. "A Variance Bounds Test of the Linear Quadratic Inventory Model," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 94(2), pages 374-401, April.
  12. Benhabib, Jess & Wen, Yi, 2001. "Indeterminacy, Aggregate Demand, and the Real Business Cycle," Working Papers 01-09r, Cornell University, Center for Analytic Economics.
  13. Martin Feldstein & Alan Auerbach, 1976. "Inventory Behavior in Durable-Goods Manufacturing: The Target-Adjustment Model," Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Economic Studies Program, The Brookings Institution, vol. 7(2), pages 351-408.
  14. Kahn, James A, 1992. "Why Is Production More Volatile Than Sales? Theory and Evidence on the Stockout-Avoidance Motive for Inventory-Holding," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 107(2), pages 481-510, May.
  15. Brown, Ward & Haegler, Urs, 2004. "Financing constraints and inventories," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 48(5), pages 1091-1123, October.
  16. Kahn, James A, 1987. "Inventories and the Volatility of Production," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 77(4), pages 667-79, September.
  17. Alan S. Blinder, 1981. "Retail Inventory Behavior and Business Fluctuations," Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Economic Studies Program, The Brookings Institution, vol. 12(2), pages 443-520.
  18. Blanchard, Olivier J, 1983. "The Production and Inventory Behavior of the American Automobile Industry," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 91(3), pages 365-400, June.
  19. Andrew B. Abel, 1985. "Inventories, Stock-Outs, and Production Smoothing," NBER Working Papers 1563, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  20. Wen, Yi, 2006. "Demand shocks and economic fluctuations," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 90(3), pages 378-383, March.
  21. Wen, Yi, 2002. "Understanding the Inventory Cycle," Working Papers 02-04, Cornell University, Center for Analytic Economics.
  22. Ramey, Valerie A, 1991. "Nonconvex Costs and the Behavior of Inventories," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 99(2), pages 306-34, April.
  23. Alan S. Blinder & Louis J. Maccini, 1991. "Taking Stock: A Critical Assessment of Recent Research on Inventories," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 5(1), pages 73-96, Winter.
  24. Andreas Hornstein, 1998. "Inventory investment and the business cycle," Economic Quarterly, Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond, issue Spr, pages 49-71.
  25. Christiano, Lawrence J., 1988. "Why does inventory investment fluctuate so much?," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 21(2-3), pages 247-280.
  26. Khan, Aubhik & Thomas, Julia K., 2007. "EXPLAINING INVENTORIES: A BUSINESS CYCLE ASSESSMENT OF THE STOCKOUT AVOIDANCE AND (S,s) MOTIVES," Macroeconomic Dynamics, Cambridge University Press, vol. 11(05), pages 638-664, November.
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