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What inventory behavior tells us about business cycles

  • Mark Bils
  • James A. Kahn

Manufacturers' finished goods inventories are less cyclical than shipments. This requires marginal cost to be more procyclical than is conventionally measured. In this paper, alternative marginal cost measures for six manufacturing industries are constructed. These measures, which attribute high-frequency productivity shocks to procyclical work effort, are more successful in accounting for inventory behavior. Evidence is also provided that the short-run slope of marginal cost arising from convexity of the production function is close to zero for five of the six industries. The paper concludes that countercyclical markups arising from a procyclical shadow price of labor are chiefly responsible for the sluggishness of inventories.

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Paper provided by Federal Reserve Bank of New York in its series Staff Reports with number 92.

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Date of creation: 1999
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Handle: RePEc:fip:fednsr:92
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  1. Gertler, M. & Gilchrist, S., 1992. "Monetary Policy, Business Cycles and the Behavior of Small Manufacturing Firms," Working Papers 92-08, C.V. Starr Center for Applied Economics, New York University.
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  17. Bernanke, Ben S & Parkinson, Martin L, 1991. "Procyclical Labor Productivity and Competing Theories of the Business Cycle: Some Evidence from Interwar U.S. Manufacturing Industries," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 99(3), pages 439-59, June.
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  24. Ray C. Fair, 1989. "The Production Smoothing Model is Alive and Well," NBER Working Papers 2877, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  25. Mark Bils & Jang-Ok Cho, 1993. "Cyclical factor utilization," Discussion Paper / Institute for Empirical Macroeconomics 79, Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis.
  26. 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.
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