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Price leadership and coordination in retail gasoline markets with price cycles

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  • Lewis, Matthew S.

Abstract

This study examines the coordination mechanism used by gasoline stations in the midwestern United States where prices exhibit highly cyclical fluctuations known as Edgeworth cycles. Stations in these markets repeatedly coordinate large marketwide price increases following periods of aggressive price undercutting. By studying these periodic price jumps both over time and across cities, I find that a particular retail chain in each city acts as a price leader initiating each price restoration. The leader signals the new price level to competitors by simultaneously jumping prices at all its stations to a single price. Competitors follow quickly with a large majority of stations jumping to the exact same price within a 24 hour period. The characteristics of the leading firms and the nature of observed price coordination suggest that successful price jumps may be facilitated by the existence of a retailer controlling the prices of a significant number of stations in a city. Identifying the important role of these firms in the market contributes to a broader understanding of price leadership and coordination and highlights another potential reason why price cycles exist in some in retail gasoline markets and not others.

Suggested Citation

  • Lewis, Matthew S., 2012. "Price leadership and coordination in retail gasoline markets with price cycles," International Journal of Industrial Organization, Elsevier, vol. 30(4), pages 342-351.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:indorg:v:30:y:2012:i:4:p:342-351
    DOI: 10.1016/j.ijindorg.2011.12.002
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. David P. Byrne, Gordon W. Leslie, and Roger Ware, 2015. "How do Consumers Respond to Gasoline Price Cycles?," The Energy Journal, International Association for Energy Economics, vol. 0(Number 1).
    2. David P. Byrne, 2012. "Petrol Price Cycles," Australian Economic Review, The University of Melbourne, Melbourne Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research, vol. 45(4), pages 497-506, December.
    3. repec:bla:jindec:v:65:y:2017:i:1:p:183-193 is not listed on IDEAS
    4. Foros, Øystein & Nguyen-Ones, Mai & Frode, Steen, 2017. "The Effects of a Day Off from Retail Price Competition: Evidence on Consumer Behavior and Firm Performance in Gasoline Retailing," Discussion Paper Series in Economics 1/2018, Norwegian School of Economics, Department of Economics.
    5. Paul Zimmerman & John Yun & Christopher Taylor, 2013. "Edgeworth Price Cycles in Gasoline: Evidence from the United States," Review of Industrial Organization, Springer;The Industrial Organization Society, vol. 42(3), pages 297-320, May.
    6. Paul W. Dobson & Sang-Hyun Kim & Hao Lan, 2016. "Identifying Price-Leadership Structures in Oligopoly," Working papers 2016rwp-99, Yonsei University, Yonsei Economics Research Institute.
    7. Harrington, Joseph E., 2017. "A theory of collusion with partial mutual understanding," Research in Economics, Elsevier, vol. 71(1), pages 140-158.
    8. Matthew Chesnes, 2016. "Asymmetric Pass-Through in U.S. Gasoline Prices," The Energy Journal, International Association for Energy Economics, vol. 0(Number 1).
    9. Arne Neukirch & Thomas Wein, 2016. "Collusive Upward Gasoline Price Movements in Medium-Sized German Cities," Working Paper Series in Economics 363, University of Lüneburg, Institute of Economics.
    10. Firgo, Matthias & Pennerstorfer, Dieter & Weiss, Christoph R., 2015. "Centrality and pricing in spatially differentiated markets: The case of gasoline," International Journal of Industrial Organization, Elsevier, vol. 40(C), pages 81-90.
    11. Andreoli-Versbach, Patrick & Franck, Jens-Uwe, 2015. "Endogenous price commitment, sticky and leadership pricing: Evidence from the Italian petrol market," International Journal of Industrial Organization, Elsevier, vol. 40(C), pages 32-48.
    12. Cirer-Costa, Joan Carles, 2017. "Estrategias de fijación y ofuscación de precios en los hoteles de sol y playa
      [Pricing and obfuscation strategies for sun and beach hotels]
      ," MPRA Paper 81823, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    13. Noel, Michael D. & Chu, Lanlan, 2015. "Forecasting gasoline prices in the presence of Edgeworth Price Cycles," Energy Economics, Elsevier, vol. 51(C), pages 204-214.
    14. Eibelshäuser, Steffen & Wilhelm, Sascha, 2017. "Markets Take Breaks: Dynamic Price Competition with Opening Hours," Annual Conference 2017 (Vienna): Alternative Structures for Money and Banking 168247, Verein für Socialpolitik / German Economic Association.
    15. Benjamin Atkinson, Andrew Eckert, and Douglas S. West, 2014. "Daily Price Cycles and Constant Margins: Recent Events in Canadian Gasoline Retailing," The Energy Journal, International Association for Energy Economics, vol. 0(Number 3).
    16. Bergantino, Angela Stefania & Capozza, Claudia & Capurso, Mauro, 2017. "Pricing strategies: who leads and who follows in the air and rail passenger markets in Italy," Working Papers 17_3, SIET Società Italiana di Economia dei Trasporti e della Logistica.
    17. Nicolas de Roos & Hajime Katayama, 2013. "Gasoline Price Cycles Under Discrete Time Pricing," The Economic Record, The Economic Society of Australia, vol. 89(285), pages 175-193, June.
    18. Alderighi, Marco & Baudino, Marco, 2015. "The pricing behavior of Italian gas stations: Some evidence from the Cuneo retail fuel market," Energy Economics, Elsevier, vol. 50(C), pages 33-46.
    19. David P. Byrne & Nicolas de Roos, 2017. "Consumer Search in Retail Gasoline Markets," Journal of Industrial Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 65(1), pages 183-193, March.
    20. Isakower, Sean & Wang, Zhongmin, 2014. "A comparison of regular price cycles in gasoline and liquefied petroleum gas," Energy Economics, Elsevier, vol. 45(C), pages 445-454.
    21. Noel, Michael D., 2015. "Do Edgeworth price cycles lead to higher or lower prices?," International Journal of Industrial Organization, Elsevier, vol. 42(C), pages 81-93.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    Price leadership; Coordination; Gasoline; Edgeworth Cycle;

    JEL classification:

    • L1 - Industrial Organization - - Market Structure, Firm Strategy, and Market Performance

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