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The cyclicality of Mark-ups and Profit Margins: Some Evidence for Manufacturing and Services

  • Ian Small
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    This paper uses industry and firm data to look at price cost mark-ups and firm profit margins in UK manufacturing and services. In particular it examines how they behave over the business cycle. It has two main findings. First, the estimated average mark-ups and the profit margin results both suggest that there is imperfect competition in manufacturing and services. Second, mark-ups are pro-cyclical, as are profit margins even after allowing for movements in their standard determinants. This suggests that price pressures may increase during recovery periods and decrease during recessions. One possible explanation for this is Kreps and Scheinkman's argument that the pro-cyclicality of capacity constraints means that firms move between Cournot and Bertrand competition over the cycle. The finding that mark-ups are pro- cyclical also raises doubts about macroeconomic models that assume that demand shocks may affect employment via counter-cyclical mark-ups.

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    File URL: http://www.bankofengland.co.uk/archive/Documents/historicpubs/workingpapers/1997/wp72.pdf
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    Paper provided by Bank of England in its series Bank of England working papers with number 72.

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    Date of creation: Dec 1997
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    Handle: RePEc:boe:boeewp:72
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    1. Catherine J. Morrison, 1990. "Market Power, Economic Profitability and Productivity Growth Measurement: An Integrated Structural Approach," NBER Working Papers 3355, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    2. Green, Edward J. & Porter, Robert H., 1982. "Noncooperative Collusion Under Imperfect Price Information," Working Papers 367, California Institute of Technology, Division of the Humanities and Social Sciences.
    3. Robert E. Hall, 1986. "The Relation Between Price and Marginal Cost in U.S. Industry," NBER Working Papers 1785, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    4. Domowitz, Ian & Hubbard, R Glenn & Petersen, Bruce C, 1988. "Market Structure and Cyclical Fluctuations in U.S. Manufacturing," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 70(1), pages 55-66, February.
    5. Layard, Richard Grenville & Nickell, Stephen, 1989. "The Thatcher Miracle?," CEPR Discussion Papers 315, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    6. Arellano, Manuel & Bond, Stephen, 1991. "Some Tests of Specification for Panel Data: Monte Carlo Evidence and an Application to Employment Equations," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 58(2), pages 277-97, April.
    7. Charles Bean & James Symons, 1989. "Ten Years of Mrs. T," NBER Chapters, in: NBER Macroeconomics Annual 1989, Volume 4, pages 13-72 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    8. Morrison, C J, 1994. "The Cyclical Nature of Markups in Canadian Manufacturing: A Production Theory Approach," Journal of Applied Econometrics, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 9(3), pages 269-82, July-Sept.
    9. Haskel, Jonathan & Martin, Christopher & Small, Ian, 1995. "Price, Marginal Cost and the Business Cycle," Oxford Bulletin of Economics and Statistics, Department of Economics, University of Oxford, vol. 57(1), pages 25-41, February.
    10. Machin, Stephen & Van Reenen, John, 1993. "Profit Margins and the Business Cycle: Evidence from UK Manufacturing Firms," Journal of Industrial Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 41(1), pages 29-50, March.
    11. Weitzman, Martin L, 1982. "Increasing Returns and the Foundations of Unemployment Theory," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 92(368), pages 787-804, December.
    12. Cowling, Keith & Waterson, Michael, 1976. "Price-Cost Margins and Market Structure," Economica, London School of Economics and Political Science, vol. 43(171), pages 267-74, August.
    13. Bils, Mark, 1989. "Pricing in a Customer Market," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 104(4), pages 699-718, November.
    14. Clarke, Roger & Davies, Stephen W, 1982. "Market Structure and Price-Cost Margins," Economica, London School of Economics and Political Science, vol. 49(195), pages 277-87, August.
    15. Ian Domowitz & R. Glenn Hubbard & Bruce C. Petersen, 1986. "Business Cycles and the Relationship Between Concentration and Price-Cost Margins," RAND Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 17(1), pages 1-17, Spring.
    16. Rotemberg, Julio J & Saloner, Garth, 1986. "A Supergame-Theoretic Model of Price Wars during Booms," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 76(3), pages 390-407, June.
    17. Robert E. Hall, 1986. "Market Structure and Macroeconomic Fluctuations," Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Economic Studies Program, The Brookings Institution, vol. 17(2), pages 285-338.
    18. Julio J. Rotemberg & Michael Woodford, 1991. "Markups and the Business Cycle," NBER Chapters, in: NBER Macroeconomics Annual 1991, Volume 6, pages 63-140 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    19. Roeger, Werner, 1995. "Can Imperfect Competition Explain the Difference between Primal and Dual Productivity Measures? Estimates for U.S. Manufacturing," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 103(2), pages 316-30, April.
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