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Gasoline and crude oil prices: why the asymmetry?

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  • Stephen P. A. Brown
  • Mine K. Yücel

Abstract

Many consumers complain that gasoline and crude oil prices have an asymmetric relationship in which gasoline prices raise more quickly when crude oil prices are rising than they fall when crude oil prices are falling. Many also regard the asymmetry they observe as evidence of market power in the petroleum industry. Most previous research provides econometric evidence of the asymmetry, confirming at least part of what consumers suspect. In this article Stephen Brown and Mine Yucel extend the inquiry by examining the market conditions underlying the asymmetric relationship between gasoline and crude oil prices. They find the observed asymmetry is unlikely to be the result of monopoly power. The remaining explanations for the asymmetry suggest that policies to prevent an asymmetric relationship between gasoline and crude oil prices are likely to reduce economic efficiency.

Suggested Citation

  • Stephen P. A. Brown & Mine K. Yücel, 2000. "Gasoline and crude oil prices: why the asymmetry?," Economic and Financial Policy Review, Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas, issue Q3, pages 23-29.
  • Handle: RePEc:fip:fedder:y:2000:i:q3:p:23-29
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Severin Boreinstein & Andrea Shepard, 1996. "Dynamic Pricing in Retail Gasoline Markets," RAND Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 27(3), pages 429-451, Autumn.
    2. David Neumark & Steven A. Sharpe, 1992. "Market Structure and the Nature of Price Rigidity: Evidence from the Market for Consumer Deposits," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 107(2), pages 657-680.
    3. John Haltiwanger & Joseph E. Harrington Jr., 1991. "The Impact of Cyclical Demand Movements on Collusive Behavior," RAND Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 22(1), pages 89-106, Spring.
    4. Reagan, Patricia B. & Weitzman, Martin L., 1982. "Asymmetries in price and quantity adjustments by the competitive firm," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 27(2), pages 410-420, August.
    5. Sam Peltzman, 2000. "Prices Rise Faster than They Fall," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 108(3), pages 466-502, June.
    6. Bacon, Robert W., 1991. "Rockets and feathers: the asymmetric speed of adjustment of UK retail gasoline prices to cost changes," Energy Economics, Elsevier, vol. 13(3), pages 211-218, July.
    7. Nathan S. Balke & Stephen P. A. Brown & Mine Yücel, 1998. "Crude oil and gasoline prices: an asymmetric relationship?," Economic and Financial Policy Review, Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas, issue Q 1, pages 2-11.
    8. Severin Borenstein & A. Colin Cameron & Richard Gilbert, 1997. "Do Gasoline Prices Respond Asymmetrically to Crude Oil Price Changes?," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 112(1), pages 305-339.
    9. Patricia B. Reagan, 1982. "Inventory and Price Behaviour," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 49(1), pages 137-142.
    10. Jeffrey D. Karrenbrock, 1991. "The behavior of retail gasoline prices: symmetric or not?," Review, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, issue Jul, pages 19-29.
    11. Severin Borenstein, 1991. "Selling Costs and Switching Costs: Explaining Retail Gasoline Margins," RAND Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 22(3), pages 354-369, Autumn.
    12. Samarendu Mohanty & E. Wesley F. Peterson & Nancy Cottrell Kruse, 1995. "Price Asymmetry in the International Wheat Market," Canadian Journal of Agricultural Economics/Revue canadienne d'agroeconomie, Canadian Agricultural Economics Society/Societe canadienne d'agroeconomie, vol. 43(3), pages 355-366, November.
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