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The Gains from Improved Market Efficiency: Trade Before and After the Transatlantic Telegraph

  • Mette Ejrnæs

    (Department of Economics, University of Copenhagen)

  • Karl Gunnar Persson

    (Department of Economics, University of Copenhagen)

This paper looks at the gains from improved market efficiency in long-distance grain trade in the second half of the 19th century when violations of the law of one price were reduced due to improved information transmission. Two markets, a major export centre, Chicago, and a major importer, Liverpool, are analyzed. We show that there was a law of one price equilibrium throughout the period but that markets displayed spells of demand- or supply-constrained trade when the law of one price was violated. Over time adjustments back to equilibrium, as measured by the half-life of a shock, become faster, violations of the law of one price become smaller and hence less persistent. There were also significant gains from improved market efficiency but that improvement took place after the information ‘regime’ shifted from pre-telegraphic communication to a regime with swift transmission of information in an era which developed a sophisticated commercial press and telegraphic communication. Improved market efficiency probably stimulated trade more than falling transport costs.

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Paper provided by University of Copenhagen. Department of Economics in its series Discussion Papers with number 06-19.

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Length: 15 pages
Date of creation: Oct 2006
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:kud:kuiedp:0619
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  1. Banerjee, Anindya & Dolado, Juan J. & Galbraith, John W. & Hendry, David, 1993. "Co-integration, Error Correction, and the Econometric Analysis of Non-Stationary Data," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, number 9780198288107.
  2. Kevin H. O'Rourke & Jeffrey G. Williamson, 2001. "Globalization and History: The Evolution of a Nineteenth-Century Atlantic Economy," MIT Press Books, The MIT Press, edition 1, volume 1, number 0262650592, June.
  3. Irwin, Douglas A, 1988. "Welfare Effects of British Free Trade: Debate and Evidence from the 1840s," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 96(6), pages 1142-64, December.
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