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Seasonality, Cost Shocks, and the Production Smoothing Model of Inventories

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  • Jeffrey A. Miron
  • Stephen P. Zeldes

Abstract

A great deal of research on the empirical behavior of inventories examines some variant of the production smoothing model of finished goods inventories. The overall assessment of this model that exists in the literature is quite negative: there is little evidence that manufacturers hold inventories of finished goods in order to smooth production patterns. This paper examines whether this negative assessment of the model is due to one or both of two features: costs shocks and seasonal fluctuations. The reason for considering costs shocks is that if firms are buffeted more by cost shocks than demand shocks, production should optimally be more variable than sales. The reasons for considering seasonal fluctuations are that seasonal fluctuations account for a major portion of the variance in production and sales, that seasonal fluctuations are precisely the kinds of fluctuations that producers should most easily smooth, and that seasonally adjusted data is likely to produce spurious rejections of the production smoothing model even when it is correct. We integrate cost shocks and seasonal fluctuations into the analysis of the production smoothing model in three steps. First, we present a general production smoothing model of inventory investment that is consistent with both seasonal and non-seasonal fluctuations in production, sales, and inventories. The model allows for both observable and unobservable changes in marginal costs. Second, we estimate this model using both seasonally adjusted and seasonally unadjusted data plus seasonal dummies. The goal here is to determine whether the incorrect use of seasonally adjusted data has been responsible for the rejections of the production smoothing model reported in previous studies. The third part of our approach is to explicitly examine the seasonal movements in the data. We test whether the residual from an Euler equation is uncorrelated with the seasonal component of contemporaneous sales. Even if unobservable seasonal cost shocks make the seasonal variation in output greater than that in sales, the timing of the resulting seasonal movements in output should not necessarily match that of sales. The results of our empirical work provide a strong negative report on the production smoothing model, even when it includes cost shocks and seasonal fluctuations. At both seasonal and non-seasonal frequencies, there appears to be little evidence that firms hold inventories in order to smooth production. A striking piece of evidence is that in most industries the seasonal in production closely matches the seasonal in shipments, even after accounting for the movements in interest rates, input prices, and the weather.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 2360.

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Date of creation: Apr 1989
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Publication status: published as Econometrica, Vol. 56, No. 4, (July 1988).
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:2360

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  1. Jeffrey A. Miron & Stephen P. Zeldes, . "Production, Sales and the Change in Inventories: An Identity that Doesn't Add Up," Rodney L. White Center for Financial Research Working Papers 20-87, Wharton School Rodney L. White Center for Financial Research.
  2. Alan S. Blinder & Stanley Fischer, 1979. "Inventories, Rational Expectations, and the Business Cycle," NBER Working Papers 0381, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. Goodfriend, Marvin, 1992. "Information-Aggregation Bias," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 82(3), pages 508-19, June.
  4. Schutte, David P, 1983. "Inventories and Sticky Prices: Note," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 73(4), pages 815-16, September.
  5. Ghali, Moheb A, 1987. "Seasonality, Aggregation and the Testing of the Production Smoothing Hypothesis," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 77(3), pages 464-69, June.
  6. Nelson, Charles R. & Plosser, Charles I., 1982. "Trends and random walks in macroeconmic time series : Some evidence and implications," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 10(2), pages 139-162.
  7. Abel, Andrew B, 1985. "Inventories, Stock-Outs and Production Smoothing," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 52(2), pages 283-93, April.
  8. Christiano, Lawrence J. & Eichenbaum, Martin, 1987. "Temporal aggregation and structural inference in macroeconomics," Carnegie-Rochester Conference Series on Public Policy, Elsevier, vol. 26(1), pages 63-130, January.
  9. Blinder, Alan S, 1986. "More on the Speed of Adjustment in Inventory Models," Journal of Money, Credit and Banking, Blackwell Publishing, vol. 18(3), pages 355-65, August.
  10. West, Kenneth D., 1983. "A note on the econometric use of constant dollar inventory series," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 13(4), pages 337-341.
  11. Martin Feldstein & Lawrence Summers, 1983. "Inflation and the Taxation of Capital Income in the Corporate Sector," NBER Chapters, in: Inflation, Tax Rules, and Capital Formation, pages 116-152 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  12. Mankiw, N. Gregory, 1981. "The permanent income hypothesis and the real interest rate," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 7(4), pages 307-311.
  13. Edward C. Prescott, 1986. "Theory ahead of business cycle measurement," Staff Report 102, Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis.
  14. Thomas J. Sargent, 1977. "Rational expectations, econometric exogeneity and consumption," Staff Report 25, Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis.
  15. 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.
  16. Miron, Jeffrey A, 1986. "Seasonal Fluctuations and the Life Cycle-Permanent Income Model of Consumption," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 94(6), pages 1258-79, December.
  17. Stephen Zeldes, . "Consumption and Liquidity Constraints: An Empirical Investigation," Rodney L. White Center for Financial Research Working Papers 24-85, Wharton School Rodney L. White Center for Financial Research.
  18. Kenneth D. West, 1985. "A Variance Bounds Test of the Linear Quardractic Inventory Model," NBER Working Papers 1581, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  19. Alan S. Blinder, 1984. "Can The Production Smoothing Model of Inventory Behavior be Saved?," NBER Working Papers 1257, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  20. Hansen, Lars Peter & Singleton, Kenneth J, 1983. "Stochastic Consumption, Risk Aversion, and the Temporal Behavior of Asset Returns," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 91(2), pages 249-65, April.
  21. Kahn, James A, 1987. "Inventories and the Volatility of Production," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 77(4), pages 667-79, September.
  22. Irvine, F Owen, Jr, 1981. "Retail Inventory Investment and the Cost of Capital," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 71(4), pages 633-48, September.
  23. Ghysels, E., 1987. "Cycles and Seasonais in Inventories: Another Look At Non-Stationarity and Induced Seasonality," Cahiers de recherche 8718, Universite de Montreal, Departement de sciences economiques.
  24. Peter M. Garber & Robert G. King, 1983. "Deep Structral Excavation? A Critique of Euler Equation Methods," NBER Technical Working Papers 0031, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  25. Maccini, Louis J & Rossana, Robert J, 1984. "Joint Production, Quasi-Fixed Factors of Production, and Investement in Finished Goods Inventories," Journal of Money, Credit and Banking, Blackwell Publishing, vol. 16(2), pages 218-36, May.
  26. Hall, Robert E, 1978. "Stochastic Implications of the Life Cycle-Permanent Income Hypothesis: Theory and Evidence," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 86(6), pages 971-87, December.
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