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Middlemen versus Market Makers: A Theory of Competitive Exchange

We present a model in which the microstructure of trade in a commodity or asset is endogenously determined. Producers and consumers of a commodity (or buyers and sellers of an asset) who wish to trade can choose between two competing types of intermediaries: "middlemen" (dealer/brokers) and "market makers" (specialists). Market makers post publicly observable bid and ask prices, whereas the prices quoted by different middlemen are private information that can be obtained only through a costly search process. We consider an initial equilibrium with which there are no market makers but there is free entry of middlemen with heterogeneous transactions costs. We characterize conditions under which entry of a single market maker can be profitable even though it is common knowledge that all surviving middlemen will undercut the market maker's publicly posted bid and ask prices in the postentry equilibrium. The market maker's entry induces the surviving middlemen to reduce their bid-ask spreads, and as a result, all producers and consumers who choose to participate in the market enjoy a strict increase in their expected gains from trade. When there is free entry into market making and search and transactions costs tend to zero, bid-ask spreads of all market makers and middlemen are forced to zero, and a fully efficient Walrasian equilibrium outcome emerges.

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Article provided by University of Chicago Press in its journal Journal of Political Economy.

Volume (Year): 111 (2003)
Issue (Month): 2 (April)
Pages: 353-403

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Handle: RePEc:ucp:jpolec:v:111:y:2003:i:2:p:353-403
Contact details of provider: Web page: http://www.journals.uchicago.edu/JPE/

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  1. Yannis Bakos, 2001. "The Emerging Landscape for Retail E-Commerce," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 15(1), pages 69-80, Winter.
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  4. George J. Hall & John Rust, 1999. "An Empirical Model of Inventory Investment by Durable Commodity Intermediaries," Cowles Foundation Discussion Papers 1228, Cowles Foundation for Research in Economics, Yale University.
  5. Yavas, Abdullah, 1992. "Marketmakers versus matchmakers," Journal of Financial Intermediation, Elsevier, vol. 2(1), pages 33-58, March.
  6. George Hall & John Rust, 2002. "Econometric Methods for Endogenously Sampled Time Series: The Case of Commodity Price Speculation in the Steel Market," NBER Technical Working Papers 0278, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  7. George Hall & John Rust, 2007. "The (S,s) Policy is an Optimal Trading Strategy in a Class of Commodity Price Speculation Problems," Economic Theory, Springer, vol. 30(3), pages 515-538, March.
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  9. Daniel F. Spulber, 1996. "Market Microstructure and Intermediation," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 10(3), pages 135-152, Summer.
  10. Michael J. Fleming, 2001. "Measuring treasury market liquidity," Staff Reports 133, Federal Reserve Bank of New York.
  11. Battalio, Robert & Greene, Jason & Jennings, Robert, 1997. "Do Competing Specialists and Preferencing Dealers Affect Market Quality?," Review of Financial Studies, Society for Financial Studies, vol. 10(4), pages 969-93.
  12. Spulber, Daniel F, 1996. "Market Making by Price-Setting Firms," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 63(4), pages 559-80, October.
  13. Michael R. Baye & John Morgan, 2001. "Information Gatekeepers on the Internet and the Competitiveness of Homogeneous Product Markets," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 91(3), pages 454-474, June.
  14. O'Hara, Maureen & Oldfield, George S., 1986. "The Microeconomics of Market Making," Journal of Financial and Quantitative Analysis, Cambridge University Press, vol. 21(04), pages 361-376, December.
  15. Caillaud, Bernard & Jullien, Bruno, 2001. "Chicken and Egg: Competing Matchmakers," CEPR Discussion Papers 2885, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  16. Yanelle, Marie-Odile, 1989. "The strategic analysis of intermediation," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 33(2-3), pages 294-301, March.
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