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Business as Usual: A Consumer Search Theory of Sticky Prices and Asymmetric Price Adjustment


  • Luís Cabral

    (IESE Business School and NYU)

  • Arthur Fishman

    () (Bar-Ilan University)


Empirical evidence suggests that prices are sticky with respect to cost changes. Moreover, prices respond more rapidly to cost increases than to cost decreases. We develop a search theoretic model which is consistent with this evidence and allows for additional testable predictions. Our results are based on the assumption that buyers do not observe the sellers׳ costs, but know that cost changes are positively correlated across sellers. In equilibrium, a change in price is likely to induce consumer search, which explains sticky prices. Moreover, the signal conveyed by a price decrease is different from the signal conveyed by a price increase, which explains asymmetry in price adjustment.

Suggested Citation

  • Luís Cabral & Arthur Fishman, 2011. "Business as Usual: A Consumer Search Theory of Sticky Prices and Asymmetric Price Adjustment," Working Papers 2011-01, Bar-Ilan University, Department of Economics.
  • Handle: RePEc:biu:wpaper:2011-01

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    2. Kate Ho & Joseph Hogan & Fiona Scott Morton, 2015. "The Impact of Consumer Inattention on Insurer Pricing in the Medicare Part D Program," NBER Working Papers 21028, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    3. Adam Reiff & Peter Karadi, 2011. "Large Shocks in Menu Cost Models," 2011 Meeting Papers 884, Society for Economic Dynamics.
    4. Diego Escobari, 2013. "Asymmetric Price Adjustments in Airlines," Managerial and Decision Economics, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 34(2), pages 74-85, March.
    5. Adam Reiff & Peter Karadi, 2014. "Menu Costs, Aggregate Fluctuations and Large Shocks," 2014 Meeting Papers 914, Society for Economic Dynamics.
    6. Loy, Jens-Peter & Weiss, Christoph R. & Glauben, Thomas, 2016. "Asymmetric cost pass-through? Empirical evidence on the role of market power, search and menu costs," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 123(C), pages 184-192.
    7. Frieder Mokinski & Nikolas Wölfing, 2014. "The effect of regulatory scrutiny: Asymmetric cost pass-through in power wholesale and its end," Journal of Regulatory Economics, Springer, vol. 45(2), pages 175-193, April.
    8. Mulder, M. & Willems, Bert, 2016. "Competition in Retail Electricity Markets : An Assessment of Ten Years Dutch Experience," Discussion Paper 2016-011, Tilburg University, Tilburg Law and Economic Center.
    9. Heim, Sven, 2016. "Rockets and feathers: Asymmetric pricing and consumer search - Evidence from electricity retailing," ZEW Discussion Papers 16-070, ZEW - Zentrum für Europäische Wirtschaftsforschung / Center for European Economic Research.
    10. Osborne, Matthew & Shapiro, Adam Hale, 2014. "A Dynamic Model of Price Signaling, Consumer Learning, and Price Adjustment," Working Paper Series 2014-27, Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco.
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    12. Gupta, Rangan & Kotzé, Kevin, 2017. "The role of oil prices in the forecasts of South African interest rates: A Bayesian approach," Energy Economics, Elsevier, vol. 61(C), pages 270-278.
    13. David P. Byrne, Gordon W. Leslie, and Roger Ware, 2015. "How do Consumers Respond to Gasoline Price Cycles?," The Energy Journal, International Association for Energy Economics, vol. 0(Number 1).
    14. Bittmann, Thomas & Holzer, Patrick & Loy, Jens-Peter, 2016. "Seasonal Cost Pass-Through In The German Milk Market," 56th Annual Conference, Bonn, Germany, September 28-30, 2016 244779, German Association of Agricultural Economists (GEWISOLA).
    15. Michael Fung, 2014. "Ocean Carriers’ Collusion Under Antitrust Immunity: Evidence of Asymmetric Pass-Through," Review of Industrial Organization, Springer;The Industrial Organization Society, vol. 45(1), pages 59-77, August.
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    17. Obradovits, Martin, 2014. "Asymmetric Pricing Caused by Collusion," MPRA Paper 58889, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    18. William (Bill) Zame & Jean-Paul L'Huillier, 2015. "Optimally Sticky Prices," 2015 Meeting Papers 621, Society for Economic Dynamics.
    19. Asane-Otoo, Emmanuel & Schneider, Jan, 2015. "Retail fuel price adjustment in Germany: A threshold cointegration approach," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 78(C), pages 1-10.

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