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Inventories and the Short-Run Dynamics of Commodity Prices

  • Robert S. Pindyck

Competitive producers hold inventories to reduce costs of adjusting production and to reduce marketing costs by facilitating scheduling and avoiding stockouts. Using data for copper, heating oil, and lumber, I estimate these costs within a structural model of production, sales, and storage, and I study their implications for inventory and price behavior. Unlike earlier studies, this work focuses on homogeneous and fungible commodities. This avoids aggregation problems, and it allows the use of direct measures of units produced, rather than inferences from dollar sales. Also, I estimate Euler equations and allow the marginal value of storage to be a convex function of the stock. This fits the data better, and helps explain the role of storage. Finally, I use futures prices to directly measure the marginal value of storage. I find a production-smoothing role for inventories only for heating oil, and during periods of low or normal prices. A more important role is to reduce marketing costs.

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Article provided by The RAND Corporation in its journal RAND Journal of Economics.

Volume (Year): 25 (1994)
Issue (Month): 1 (Spring)
Pages: 141-159

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Handle: RePEc:rje:randje:v:25:y:1994:i:spring:p:141-159
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  1. West, Kenneth D, 1986. "A Variance Bounds Test of the Linear Quadratic Inventory Model," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 94(2), pages 374-401, April.
  2. Cox, John C. & Ingersoll, Jonathan Jr. & Ross, Stephen A., 1981. "The relation between forward prices and futures prices," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 9(4), pages 321-346, December.
  3. Jeffrey A. Miron & Stephen P. Zeldes, . "Seasonality, Cost Shocks and the Production Smoothing Model of Inventories," Rodney L. White Center for Financial Research Working Papers 01-87, Wharton School Rodney L. White Center for Financial Research.
  4. 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.
  5. Blinder, Alan S, 1986. "Can the Production Smoothing Model of Inventory Behavior Be Saved?," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 101(3), pages 431-53, August.
  6. Williams, Jeffrey, 1987. "Futures Markets: A Consequences of Risk Aversion or Transactions Costs?," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 95(5), pages 1000-1023, October.
  7. 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.
  8. Fair, Ray C., 1989. "The production-smoothing model is alive and well," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 24(3), pages 353-370, November.
  9. Lester G. Telser, 1958. "Futures Trading and the Storage of Cotton and Wheat," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 66, pages 233.
  10. Olivier J. Blanchard & Angelo Melino, 1984. "Cyclical Behavior of Prices and Quantities in the Automobile Market," NBER Working Papers 1325, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  11. 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.
  12. Alan S. Blinder, 1981. "Inventories and Sticky Prices: More on the Microfoundations of Macroeconomics," NBER Working Papers 0620, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  13. 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.
  14. French, Kenneth R., 1983. "A comparison of futures and forward prices," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 12(3), pages 311-342, November.
  15. Eichenbaum, Martin, 1983. "A rational expectations equilibrium model of inventories of finished goods and employment," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 12(2), pages 259-277.
  16. Brennan, Michael J & Schwartz, Eduardo S, 1985. "Evaluating Natural Resource Investments," The Journal of Business, University of Chicago Press, vol. 58(2), pages 135-57, April.
  17. Fama, Eugene F & French, Kenneth R, 1988. " Business Cycles and the Behavior of Metals Prices," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 43(5), pages 1075-93, December.
  18. Kahn, James A, 1987. "Inventories and the Volatility of Production," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 77(4), pages 667-79, September.
  19. Bresnahan, Timothy F & Suslow, Valerie Y, 1985. "Inventories as an Asset: The Volatility of Copper Prices," International Economic Review, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania and Osaka University Institute of Social and Economic Research Association, vol. 26(2), pages 409-24, June.
  20. Ramey, Valerie A, 1989. "Inventories as Factors of Production and Economic Fluctuations," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 79(3), pages 338-54, June.
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