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Inventories and the business cycle: an equilibrium analysis of (S,s) policies

  • Aubhik Khan
  • Julie K. Thomas

We develop an equilibrium business cycle model where producers of final goods pursue generalized (S,s) inventory policies with respect to intermediate goods due to nonconvex factor adjustment costs. When calibrated to reproduce the average inventory-to-sales ratio in postwar U.S. data, our model explains over half of the cyclical variability of inventory investment. Moreover, inventory accumulation is strongly procyclical, and production is more volatile than sales, as in the data. ; The comovement between inventory investment and final sales is often interpreted as evidence that inventories amplify aggregate fluctuations. In contrast, our model economy exhibits a business cycle similar to that of a comparable benchmark without inventories, though we do observe somewhat higher variability in employment, and lower variability in consumption and investment. Thus, our equilibrium analysis reveals that the presence of inventories does not substantially raise the cyclical variability of production, because it dampens movements in final sales.

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Paper provided by Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis in its series Staff Report with number 329.

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Date of creation: 2003
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Handle: RePEc:fip:fedmsr:329
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  1. Ramey, Valerie A. & West, Kenneth D., 1999. "Inventories," Handbook of Macroeconomics, in: J. B. Taylor & M. Woodford (ed.), Handbook of Macroeconomics, edition 1, volume 1, chapter 13, pages 863-923 Elsevier.
  2. Gary Hansen, 2010. "Indivisible Labor and the Business Cycle," Levine's Working Paper Archive 233, David K. Levine.
  3. Brad R. Humphreys & Louis J. Maccini & Scott Schuh, 1997. "Input and output inventories," Working Papers 97-7, Federal Reserve Bank of Boston.
  4. Daniele Coen-Pirani, 2003. "Microeconomic Inventory Behavior and Aggregate Inventory Dynamics," GSIA Working Papers 2003-E28, Carnegie Mellon University, Tepper School of Business.
  5. Kydland, Finn E & Prescott, Edward C, 1982. "Time to Build and Aggregate Fluctuations," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 50(6), pages 1345-70, November.
  6. Per Krusell & Anthony A. Smith, Jr., . "Income and Wealth Heterogeneity, Portfolio Choice, and Equilibrium Asset Returns," GSIA Working Papers 1997-45, Carnegie Mellon University, Tepper School of Business.
  7. Mark Bils & James A. Kahn, 1999. "What Inventory Behavior Tells Us About Business Cycles," NBER Working Papers 7310, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  8. Valerie A. Ramey & Daniel J. Vine, 2004. "Tracking the Source of the Decline in GDP Volatility: An Analysis of the Automobile Industry," NBER Working Papers 10384, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  9. Ramey, Valerie A, 1991. "Nonconvex Costs and the Behavior of Inventories," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 99(2), pages 306-34, April.
  10. Jonas D.M. Fisher & Andreas Hornstein, 1995. "(S,s) inventory policies in general equilibrium," Discussion Paper / Institute for Empirical Macroeconomics 104, Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis.
  11. Krusell, P & Smith Jr, A-A, 1995. "Income and Wealth Heterogeneity in the Macroeconomic," RCER Working Papers 399, University of Rochester - Center for Economic Research (RCER).
  12. Robert G. King & Sergio T. Rebelo, 2000. "Resuscitating Real Business Cycles," NBER Working Papers 7534, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  13. Ricardo J. Caballero & Eduardo M.R.A. Engel, 1991. "Dynamic (S,s) Economies," NBER Working Papers 3734, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  14. Jonathan McCarthy & Egon Zakrajsek, 2000. "Microeconomic inventory adjustment: evidence from U.S. firm-level data," Staff Reports 101, Federal Reserve Bank of New York.
  15. Edward C. Prescott, 1986. "Theory ahead of business cycle measurement," Quarterly Review, Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis, issue Fall, pages 9-22.
  16. Ramey, Valerie A, 1989. "Inventories as Factors of Production and Economic Fluctuations," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 79(3), pages 338-54, June.
  17. 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.
  18. Rogerson, Richard, 1988. "Indivisible labor, lotteries and equilibrium," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 21(1), pages 3-16, January.
  19. Hall, George & Rust, John, 2000. "An empirical model of inventory investment by durable commodity intermediaries," Carnegie-Rochester Conference Series on Public Policy, Elsevier, vol. 52(1), pages 171-214, June.
  20. Mosser, Patricia C, 1991. "Trade Inventories and (S, s)," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 106(4), pages 1267-86, November.
  21. Aubhik Khan & Julia Thomas, 2002. "Nonconvex factor adjustments in equilibrium business cycle models: Do nonlinearities matter?," Staff Report 306, Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis.
  22. Ricardo J. Caballero & Eduardo M.R.A. Engel, 1994. "Explaining Investment Dynamics in U.S. Manufacturing: A Generalized (S,s) Approach," NBER Working Papers 4887, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  23. Eric J. Bartelsman & Wayne Gray, 1996. "The NBER Manufacturing Productivity Database," NBER Technical Working Papers 0205, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  24. Christiano, Lawrence J., 1988. "Why does inventory investment fluctuate so much?," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 21(2-3), pages 247-280.
  25. Martin S. Eichenbaum, 1988. "Some Empirical Evidence on the Production Level and Production Cost Smoothing Models of Inventory Investment," NBER Working Papers 2523, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  26. Caplin, Andrew S, 1985. "The Variability of Aggregate Demand with (S, s) Inventory Policies," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 53(6), pages 1395-1409, November.
  27. Andreas Hornstein, 1998. "Inventory investment and the business cycle," Economic Quarterly, Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond, issue Spr, pages 49-71.
  28. repec:cup:macdyn:v:1:y:1997:i:2:p:387-422 is not listed on IDEAS
  29. Terry J. Fitzgerald, 1997. "Inventories and the business cycle: an overview," Economic Review, Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland, issue Q III, pages 11-22.
  30. James H. Stock & Mark W. Watson, 2003. "Has the business cycle changed?," Proceedings - Economic Policy Symposium - Jackson Hole, Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City, pages 9-56.
  31. Scott Schuh, 1996. "Evidence on the link between firm-level and aggregate inventory behavior," Finance and Economics Discussion Series 96-46, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.).
  32. Alan S. Blinder & Louis J. Maccini, 1991. "Taking Stock: A Critical Assessment of Recent Research on Inventories," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 5(1), pages 73-96, Winter.
  33. Kahn, James A, 1987. "Inventories and the Volatility of Production," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 77(4), pages 667-79, September.
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