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An empirical model of inventory investment by durable commodity intermediaries

  • Hall, George
  • Rust, John

We present a new detailed data set of high-frequency observations on inventory investment by a U.S. steel wholesaler. Our analysis of the data leads to six main conclusions: orders and sales are made infrequently; orders are more volatile than sales; order sizes vary considerably; there is considerable day-to-day variability in sales prices; inventory/sales ratios are unstable; and there are occasional stockouts. We model the firm generically as a durable commodity intermediary. We demonstrate that the firm's behavior at the product level is well approximated by an optimal trading strategy derived from a multi-dimensional nonlinear dynamic programming problem with continuous state and control variables which are subject to frequently binding inequality constraints. We show that the optimal trading strategy takes the form of a generalized (S,s) rule in which the (S,s) bands are decreasing functions of the spot price. We simulate a calibrated version of this model, and show that the simulated data exhibit the key features of inventory investment we observe in our data.

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Article provided by Elsevier in its journal Carnegie-Rochester Conference Series on Public Policy.

Volume (Year): 52 (2000)
Issue (Month): 1 (June)
Pages: 171-214

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Handle: RePEc:eee:crcspp:v:52:y:2000:i:1:p:171-214
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  1. Williams,Jeffrey C. & Wright,Brian D., 1991. "Storage and Commodity Markets," Cambridge Books, Cambridge University Press, number 9780521326162, November.
  2. Valerie A. Ramey & Kenneth D. West, 1997. "Inventories," NBER Working Papers 6315, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    • Ramey, Valerie A. & West, Kenneth D., 1999. "Inventories," Handbook of Macroeconomics, in: J. B. Taylor & M. Woodford (ed.), Handbook of Macroeconomics, edition 1, volume 1, chapter 13, pages 863-923 Elsevier.
  3. Andrew B. Abel, 1985. "Inventories, Stock-Outs and Production Smoothing," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 52(2), pages 283-293.
  4. Ray C. Fair, 1989. "The Production Smoothing Model is Alive and Well," NBER Working Papers 2877, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  5. Rust, J., 1994. "Using Randomization to Break the Curse of Dimensionality," Working papers 9429, Wisconsin Madison - Social Systems.
  6. John Rust, 1997. "A Comparison of Policy Iteration Methods for Solving Continuous-State, Infinite-Horizon Markovian Decision Problems Using Random, Quasi-random, and Deterministic Discretizations," Computational Economics 9704001, EconWPA.
  7. 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.
  8. James A. Kahn & Mark Bils, 2000. "What Inventory Behavior Tells Us about Business Cycles," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 90(3), pages 458-481, June.
  9. Eichenbaum, Martin S., 1984. "Rational expectations and the smoothing properties of inventories of finished goods," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 14(1), pages 71-96, July.
  10. Alan S. Blinder, 1986. "Can the Production Smoothing Model of Inventory Behavior be Saved?," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 101(3), pages 431-453.
  11. Caplin, Andrew S, 1985. "The Variability of Aggregate Demand with (S, s) Inventory Policies," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 53(6), pages 1395-1409, November.
  12. Jonas D.M. Fisher & Andreas Hornstein, 1995. "(S,s) inventory policies in general equilibrium," Discussion Paper / Institute for Empirical Macroeconomics 104, Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis.
  13. Timothy F. Bresnahan & Valerie A. Ramey, 1994. "Output Fluctuations at the Plant Level," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 109(3), pages 593-624.
  14. George J. Hall, 1997. "Non-Convex Costs and Capital Utilization: A Study of Production Scheduling at Automobile Assembly Plants," Cowles Foundation Discussion Papers 1169, Cowles Foundation for Research in Economics, Yale University.
  15. Angus Deaton & Guy Laroque, 1990. "On The Behavior of Commodity Prices," NBER Working Papers 3439, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  16. Jeffrey A. Miron & Stephen P. Zeldes, 1987. "Seasonality, Cost Shocks, and the Production Smoothing Model of Inventories," NBER Working Papers 2360, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  17. Alan S. Blinder, 1986. "More on the Speed of Adjustment in Inventory Models," NBER Working Papers 1913, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  18. 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.
  19. Jeffrey A. Miron & Stephen P. Zeldes, 1988. "Production, Sales, and the Change in Inventories: An Identity That Doesn`t Add Up," NBER Working Papers 2765, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  20. Kenneth D. West, 1985. "A Variance Bounds Test of the Linear Quardractic Inventory Model," NBER Working Papers 1581, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  21. Olivier J. Blanchard, 1982. "The Production and Inventory Behavior of the American Automobile Industry," NBER Working Papers 0891, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  22. Kahn, James A, 1987. "Inventories and the Volatility of Production," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 77(4), pages 667-79, September.
  23. 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.
  24. James A. Kahn, 1992. "Why is Production More Volatile than Sales? Theory and Evidence on the Stockout-Avoidance Motive for Inventory-Holding," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 107(2), pages 481-510.
  25. John Rust & Joseph Traub & Henryk Wozniakowski, 1999. "No Curse of Dimensionality for Contraction Fixed Points Even in the Worst Case," Computational Economics 9902001, EconWPA.
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