The pass through of oil prices into euro area consumer liquid fuel prices in an environment of high and volatile oil prices
Crude and refined oil prices have been relatively high and volatile on a sustained basis since 1999. This paper considers the pass through of oil prices into consumer liquid (i.e. petrol, diesel and heating) fuel prices in such an environment. The pass through of oil prices into consumer liquid fuel prices has already been addressed extensively in the literature. Nonetheless much of this literature has either focused on the United States or on a time period when oil prices were relatively stable, or has used monthly data. The main contribution of this paper is a comprehensive combination of many features that have been considered before but rarely jointly. These features include: (1) the analysis of the euro area as an aggregate and a large number of countries (the initial 12 member states); (2) the consideration of different time periods; (3) the modelling of the data in raw levels rather than in log levels. This turns out to have important implications for our findings; (4) the use of high frequency (weekly) data, which, as results will suggest, are the lowest frequency one should consider; (5) the investigation of the different stages of the production chain from crude oil prices to retail distribution -- refining costs and margins, distribution and retailing costs and margins; (6) the examination of prices including and excluding taxes -- excise and value-added; (7) the modelling of prices for three fuel types -- passenger car petrol and diesel separately and home heating fuel oil; (8) lastly we also address the issue of possible asymmetries, allowing for the pass through to vary according to (a) whether price are increasing or decreasing and (b) whether price levels are above or below their equilibrium level. The main findings are as follows: First, as distribution and retailing costs and margins have been broadly stable on average, the modelling of the relationship between consumer prices excluding taxes and upstream prices in raw levels rather than in logarithms has important implications for the stability of estimates of pass through when oil price levels rise significantly. Second, considering spot prices for refined prices improves significantly the fit of the estimated models relative to using crude oil prices. It also results in more economically meaningful results concerning the extent of pass through. Third, oil price pass through occurs quickly, with 90% occurring within three to five weeks. Fourth, using a relatively broad specification allowing for asymmetry in the pass through from upstream to downstream prices, there is little evidence of statistically significant asymmetries. Furthermore, even where asymmetry is found to be statistically significant, it is generally not economically significant. Lastly, these results generally hold across most euro area countries with few exceptions.
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