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Retail price cycles and response asymmetry


  • Andrew Eckert


Weekly retail gasoline prices in Windsor, Ontario, from 1989 to 1994 appear to respond faster to wholesale price increases than to decreases, but exhibit a cyclic pattern inconsistent with a common explanation of response asymmetry. I reconcile these observations through a model of price cycles. Prices on the downward portion of the cycle appear insensitive to costs, compared with price increases, supporting the theory that price decreases result from battles over market share. This pattern resembles a faster response to cost increases than to decreases, and the conclusion that asymmetry indicates a role for competition policy may be inappropriate. JEL Classification: L13, L71 Cycles des prix de détail et réponse asymétrique. Les prix de détail hebdomadaires de la gazoline à Windsor (Ont.) entre 1989 et 1994 semblent réagir plus vite aux accroissements qu’aux chutes des prix de gros, mais suivent un pattern cyclique qui ne semble pas consistant avec l’explication traditionnelle en termes de réponse asymétrique. L’auteur réconcilie ces observations à l’aide d’un modèle de cycle de prix. Les prix dans la portion descendante du cycle semblent insensibles aux variations de coûts, par comparaison avec les accroissements de prix, ce qui supporte la théorie que les chutes de prix résultent de luttes pour les parts de marché. Le pattern ressemble à celui déclenché par une réponse plus rapide aux augmentations qu’aux chutes de coûts, et la conclusion qui voudrait qu’on puisse attribuer le tout à l’asymétrie des réponses (et que donc une intervention de la politique de la concurrence s’impose) peut être inappropriée.

Suggested Citation

  • Andrew Eckert, 2002. "Retail price cycles and response asymmetry," Canadian Journal of Economics/Revue canadienne d'économique, John Wiley & Sons, vol. 35(1), pages 52-77, February.
  • Handle: RePEc:wly:canjec:v:35:y:2002:i:1:p:52-77
    DOI: 10.1111/1540-5982.00120

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    JEL classification:

    • L13 - Industrial Organization - - Market Structure, Firm Strategy, and Market Performance - - - Oligopoly and Other Imperfect Markets
    • L71 - Industrial Organization - - Industry Studies: Primary Products and Construction - - - Mining, Extraction, and Refining: Hydrocarbon Fuels


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