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Trade and Uncertainty

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  • Dennis Novy
  • Alan M. Taylor

Abstract

We offer a new explanation as to why international trade is so volatile in response to economic shocks. Our approach combines the uncertainty shock idea of Bloom (2009) with a model of international trade, extending the idea to the open economy. Firms import intermediate inputs from home or foreign suppliers, but with higher costs in the latter case. Due to fixed costs of ordering firms hold an inventory of intermediates. We show that in response to an uncertainty shock firms optimally adjust their inventory policy by cutting their orders of foreign intermediates disproportionately strongly. In the aggregate, this response leads to a bigger contraction in international trade flows than in domestic economic activity. We confront the model with newly-compiled monthly aggregate U.S. import data and industrial production data going back to 1962, and also with disaggregated data back to 1989. Our results suggest a tight link between uncertainty and the cyclical behavior of international trade.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 19941.

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Date of creation: Feb 2014
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Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:19941

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  1. Daniel Paravisini & Veronica Rappoport & Philipp Schnabl & Daniel Wolfenzon, 2011. "Dissecting the Effect of Credit Supply on Trade: Evidence from Matched Credit-Export Data," NBER Working Papers 16975, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. Sam Kortum & John Romalis & Brent Neiman & Jonathan Eaton, 2010. "Trade and the Global Recession," 2010 Meeting Papers 1340, Society for Economic Dynamics.
  3. Michaels, Guy & Rauch, Ferdinand, 2013. "Resetting the Urban Network: 117-2012," CEPR Discussion Papers 9760, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  4. George Alessandria & Joseph P. Kaboski & Virgiliu Midrigan, 2010. "The great trade collapse of 2008-2009: an inventory adjustment?," Working Papers 10-18, Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia.
  5. McDonald, Robert & Siegel, Daniel, 1986. "The Value of Waiting to Invest," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 101(4), pages 707-27, November.
  6. George Alessandria & Joseph P. Kaboski & Virgiliu Midrigan, 2010. "The Great Trade Collapse of 2008-09: An Inventory Adjustment?," NBER Working Papers 16059, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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Cited by:
  1. Nicholas Bloom, 2014. "Fluctuations in Uncertainty," Discussion Papers 13-033, Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research.

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