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Durable goods inventories and the Great Moderation

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  • James A. Kahn

Abstract

This paper revisits the hypothesis that changes in inventory management were an important contributor to volatility reductions during the Great Moderation. It documents how changes in inventory behavior contributed to the stabilization of the U.S. economy within the durable goods sector, in particular, and develops a model of inventory behavior that is consistent with the key facts about volatility decline in that sector. The model is calibrated to evidence from survey data showing that lead times for materials orders in manufacturing shrank after the early 1980s. Simulations of the model show large reductions in the volatility of output growth and more modest reductions in the volatility of sales growth. In addition, the model addresses concerns raised by a number of researchers who criticize the inventory literature's focus on finished goods inventories, given that stocks of works-in-process and materials are actually larger and more volatile that those of finished goods. The model adapts the stockout-avoidance concept to a production-to-order setting and shows that much of the intuition and results regarding production volatility still apply.

Suggested Citation

  • James A. Kahn, 2008. "Durable goods inventories and the Great Moderation," Staff Reports 325, Federal Reserve Bank of New York.
  • Handle: RePEc:fip:fednsr:325
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Domenico Giannone & Michele Lenza & Lucrezia Reichlin, 2008. "Explaining The Great Moderation: It Is Not The Shocks," Journal of the European Economic Association, MIT Press, vol. 6(2-3), pages 621-633, 04-05.
    2. James A. Kahn & Mark Bils, 2000. "What Inventory Behavior Tells Us about Business Cycles," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 90(3), pages 458-481, June.
    3. Humphreys, Brad R. & Maccini, Louis J. & Schuh, Scott, 2001. "Input and output inventories," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 47(2), pages 347-375, April.
    4. Yi Wen, 2011. "Input and Output Inventory Dynamics," American Economic Journal: Macroeconomics, American Economic Association, vol. 3(4), pages 181-212, October.
    5. 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.
    6. Kahn, James A, 1987. "Inventories and the Volatility of Production," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 77(4), pages 667-679, September.
    7. Steven J. Davis & James A. Kahn, 2008. "Interpreting the Great Moderation: Changes in the Volatility of Economic Activity at the Macro and Micro Levels," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 22(4), pages 155-180, Fall.
    8. James H. Stock & Mark W. Watson, 2003. "Has the Business Cycle Changed and Why?," NBER Chapters,in: NBER Macroeconomics Annual 2002, Volume 17, pages 159-230 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    9. 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.
    10. JONATHAN McCARTHY & EGON ZAKRAJSEK, 2007. "Inventory Dynamics and Business Cycles: What Has Changed?," Journal of Money, Credit and Banking, Blackwell Publishing, vol. 39(2-3), pages 591-613, March.
    11. Olivier Blanchard & John Simon, 2001. "The Long and Large Decline in U.S. Output Volatility," Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Economic Studies Program, The Brookings Institution, vol. 32(1), pages 135-174.
    12. James A. Kahn, 2000. "Explaining the gap between new home sales and inventories," Current Issues in Economics and Finance, Federal Reserve Bank of New York, vol. 6(May).
    13. James A. Kahn & Margaret M. McConnell & Gabriel Perez-Quiros, 2002. "On the causes of the increased stability of the U.S. economy," Economic Policy Review, Federal Reserve Bank of New York, issue May, pages 183-202.
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    Cited by:

    1. Camacho, Maximo & Perez Quiros, Gabriel & Rodriguez Mendizabal, Hugo, 2011. "High-growth recoveries, inventories and the Great Moderation," Journal of Economic Dynamics and Control, Elsevier, vol. 35(8), pages 1322-1339, August.
    2. Steven J. Davis & James A. Kahn, 2008. "Interpreting the Great Moderation: Changes in the Volatility of Economic Activity at the Macro and Micro Levels," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 22(4), pages 155-180, Fall.
    3. Bivin, David, 2013. "Production chains and aggregate output volatility," International Journal of Production Economics, Elsevier, vol. 145(2), pages 807-816.
    4. Barrera, Carlos R., 2011. "Impacto amplificador del ajuste de inventarios ante choques de demanda según especificaciones flexibles," Working Papers 2011-009, Banco Central de Reserva del Perú.

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    Keywords

    Industrial productivity ; Manufactures ; Durable goods; Consumer;

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