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A Supergame-Theoretic Model of Business Cycles and Price Wars During Booms

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  • Julio J. Rotemberg
  • Garth Saloner

Abstract

This paper studies implicitly colluding oligopolists facing fluctuating demand. The credible threat of future punishments provides the discipline that facilitates collusion. However, we find that the temptation to unilaterally deflate from the collusive outcome is often greater when demand is high. To moderate this temptation,the optimizing oligopoly reduces its profitability at such times,resulting in lower prices. If the oligopolists' output is an input to other sectors, their output may increase too. This explains the co-movements of outputs which characterize business cycles. The behavior of the railroads in the 1880's, the automobile industry in the 1950's and the cyclical behavior of cement prices and price-cost margins support our theory. (J.E.L. Classification numbers:020, 130, 610).
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Suggested Citation

  • Julio J. Rotemberg & Garth Saloner, 1984. "A Supergame-Theoretic Model of Business Cycles and Price Wars During Booms," Working papers 349, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Department of Economics.
  • Handle: RePEc:mit:worpap:349
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. James W. Friedman, 1971. "A Non-cooperative Equilibrium for Supergames," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 38(1), pages 1-12.
    2. Green, Edward J & Porter, Robert H, 1984. "Noncooperative Collusion under Imperfect Price Information," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 52(1), pages 87-100, January.
    3. Grossman, Sanford J & Hart, Oliver D & Maskin, Eric S, 1983. "Unemployment with Observable Aggregate Shocks," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 91(6), pages 907-928, December.
    4. Rotemberg, Julio J, 1982. "Sticky Prices in the United States," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 90(6), pages 1187-1211, December.
    5. Long, John B, Jr & Plosser, Charles I, 1983. "Real Business Cycles," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 91(1), pages 39-69, February.
    6. Robert H. Porter, 1983. "A Study of Cartel Stability: The Joint Executive Committee, 1880-1886," Bell Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 14(2), pages 301-314, Autumn.
    7. Mordecai Kurz, 1979. "A Strategic Theory of Inflation," NBER Working Papers 0379, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    8. Lilien, David M, 1982. "Sectoral Shifts and Cyclical Unemployment," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 90(4), pages 777-793, August.
    9. Radner, Roy, 1980. "Collusive behavior in noncooperative epsilon-equilibria of oligopolies with long but finite lives," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 22(2), pages 136-154, April.
    10. Porter, Robert H., 1983. "Optimal cartel trigger price strategies," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 29(2), pages 313-338, April.
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    As found by EconAcademics.org, the blog aggregator for Economics research:
    1. Interpreting information, markups, and the economic cycle
      by Matt Nolan in TVHE on 2012-09-05 00:00:52

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    Cited by:

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    2. Christian Stoff, 2004. "Establishing Cooperation between Groups: Ingroup versus Outgroup Punishment," SOI - Working Papers 0416, Socioeconomic Institute - University of Zurich, revised Feb 2006.
    3. Bulan, Laarni & Mayer, Christopher & Somerville, C. Tsuriel, 2009. "Irreversible investment, real options, and competition: Evidence from real estate development," Journal of Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 65(3), pages 237-251, May.
    4. V. V. Chari & Patrick J. Kehoe, 1993. "Sustainable Plans and Mutual Default," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 60(1), pages 175-195.
    5. Robert B. Barsky & Mark Bergen & Shantanu Dutta & Daniel Levy, 2003. "What Can the Price Gap between Branded and Private-Label Products Tell Us about Markups?," NBER Chapters, in: Scanner Data and Price Indexes, pages 165-228, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    6. Boone, Jan, 2002. "'Be Nice, Unless it Pays to Fight': A New Theory of Price Determination with Implications for Competition Policy," CEPR Discussion Papers 3342, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    7. David Genesove & Wallace P. Mullin, 1995. "Validating the Conjectural Variation Method: The Sugar Industry, 1890-1914," Working papers 95-20, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Department of Economics.
    8. Catherine J. Morrison, 1989. "Markup Behavior in Durable and Nondurable Manufacturing: A production Theory Approach," NBER Working Papers 2941, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    9. Strausz, Roland, 2005. "Honest certification and the threat of capture," International Journal of Industrial Organization, Elsevier, vol. 23(1-2), pages 45-62, February.
    10. Kollmann, Robert, 1997. "The cyclical behavior of mark ups in U.S. manufacturing and trade: new empirical evidence based on a model of optimal storage," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 57(3), pages 331-337, December.
    11. Federico S. Mandelman, 2006. "Business cycles: a role for imperfect competition in the banking system," FRB Atlanta Working Paper 2006-21, Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta.
    12. Judith A. Chevalier & Anil K. Kashyap & Peter E. Rossi, 2003. "Why Don't Prices Rise During Periods of Peak Demand? Evidence from Scanner Data," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 93(1), pages 15-37, March.
    13. Rafael Di Tella & Robert MacCulloch, 2002. "Informal Family Insurance And The Design Of The Welfare State," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 112(481), pages 481-503, July.
    14. Robert B. Barsky & Lutz Kilian, 2002. "Do We Really Know that Oil Caused the Great Stagflation? A Monetary Alternative," NBER Chapters, in: NBER Macroeconomics Annual 2001, Volume 16, pages 137-198, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    15. Mandelman, Federico S., 2010. "Business cycles and monetary regimes in emerging economies: A role for a monopolistic banking sector," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 81(1), pages 122-138, May.

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