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Inventory Fluctuations in the United States since 1929

In: The American Business Cycle: Continuity and Change

Listed author(s):
  • Alan S. Blinder
  • Douglas Holtz-Eakin

It has been known for a long time that inventory fluctuations are of great importance in business cycles. But inventory fluctuations are fundamentally a short-period phenomenon. Consequently, annual data may shed relatively little light on the nature of inventory fluctuations; most of the "action" may be played out within the year. For this reason, economists know precious little about inventory behavior before World War II. This paper seeks to lift this veil of ignorance in two ways. First,we create -- from some admittedly incomplete and imperfect data -- monthly time series on inventory holdings in manufacturing, durable manufacturing,and nondurable manufacturing. To our knowledge, these are the first such series ever made available.(The data are available on request.) Second,we apply to the prewar data certain statistical procedures and models that are in common use with postwar data. In this way, we can address the central issue of the paper: Has inventory behavior changed? While we do not wish to overstate the case, we were struck more by the similarities in inventory behavior between the prewar and postwar periods than by the differences. But the relevant stylized facts and regressing are displayed below, and each reader can make up his or her own mind.

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This chapter was published in:
  • Robert J. Gordon, 1986. "The American Business Cycle: Continuity and Change," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number gord86-1, November.
  • This item is provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Chapters with number 10023.
    Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberch:10023
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    1. McCallum, Bennett T, 1976. "Rational Expectations and the Natural Rate Hypothesis: Some Consistent Estimates," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 44(1), pages 43-52, January.
    2. Ragnar Nurkse, 1954. "Period Analysis And Inventory Cycles," Oxford Economic Papers, Oxford University Press, vol. 6(3), pages 203-225.
    3. Blinder, Alan S, 1981. "Inventories and the Structure of Macro Models," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 71(2), pages 11-16, May.
    4. Moses Abramovitz, 1950. "Total Inventories during Business Cycles," NBER Chapters,in: Inventories and Business Cycles, with Special Reference to Manufacturer's Inventories, pages 76-108 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    5. 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.
    6. Flood, Robert P. & Garber, Peter M., 1980. "A pitfall in estimation of models with rational expectations," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 6(3), pages 433-435, July.
    7. Blinder, Alan S. & Fischer, Stanley, 1981. "Inventories, rational expectations, and the business cycle," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 8(3), pages 277-304.
    8. Michael C. Lovell, 1959. "Manufacturers' Inventories, Sales Expectations, and the Acceleration Principle," Cowles Foundation Discussion Papers 86, Cowles Foundation for Research in Economics, Yale University.
    9. Sargent, Thomas J, 1978. "Rational Expectations, Econometric Exogeneity, and Consumption," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 86(4), pages 673-700, August.
    10. Maccini, Louis J & Rossana, Robert J, 1984. "Joint Production, Quasi-Fixed Factors of Production, and Investement in Finished Goods Inventories," Journal of Money, Credit and Banking, Blackwell Publishing, vol. 16(2), pages 218-236, May.
    11. Martin Feldstein & Alan Auerbach, 1976. "Inventory Behavior in Durable-Goods Manufacturing: The Target-Adjustment Model," Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Economic Studies Program, The Brookings Institution, vol. 7(2), pages 351-408.
    12. McCallum, B T, 1972. "Inventory Holdings, Rational Expectations, and the Law of Supply and Demand," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 80(2), pages 386-393, March-Apr.
    13. Saracoglu, Rusdu & Sargent, Thomas J., 1978. "Seasonality and portfolio balance under rational expectations," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 4(3), pages 435-458, August.
    14. Alan S. Blinder, 1981. "Retail Inventory Behavior and Business Fluctuations," Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Economic Studies Program, The Brookings Institution, vol. 12(2), pages 443-520.
    15. F. Owen Irvine, 1981. "Specification errors and the stock-adjustment model: why estimated speeds-of-adjustment are too slow in inventory equations," Working Paper Series / Economic Activity Section 14, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.).
    16. West, Kenneth D., 1983. "A note on the econometric use of constant dollar inventory series," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 13(4), pages 337-341.
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