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Inventories and the Business Cycle: An Equilibrium Analysis of (S,s) Policies

  • Aubhik Khan
  • Julia Thomas

We develop an equilibrium business cycle model where nonconvex delivery costs lead producers of final goods to follow generalized (S,s) inventory policies with respect to intermediate goods. When calibrated to match the average inventory-to-sales ratio in postwar U.S. data, our model reproduces two-thirds 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. Our model contradicts this view. Despite the positive correlation between sales and inventory investment, we find that inventory accumulation has minimal consequence for the cyclical variability of GDP. In equilibrium, procyclical inventory investment diverts resources from the production of final goods; thus, it dampens cyclical changes in final sales, leaving GDP volatility essentially unaltered. Moreover, although business cycles arise solely from shocks to productivity and markets are perfectly competitive in our model, it nonetheless yields a countercyclical inventory-to-sales ratio.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 10078.

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Date of creation: Nov 2003
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Publication status: published as Aubhik KhanJulia Thomas. “Inventories and the Business Cycle: An Equilibrium Analysis of (S,s) Policies." American Economic Review 97, 4 (2007): 1165-88.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:10078
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  1. 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.
  2. Terry J. Fitzgerald, 1997. "Inventories and the business cycle: an overview," Economic Review, Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland, issue Q III, pages 11-22.
  3. Aubhik Khan & Julia K. Thomas, . "Nonconvex Factor Adjustments in Equilibrium Business Cycle Models: Do Nonlinearities Matter?," GSIA Working Papers 2000-E33, Carnegie Mellon University, Tepper School of Business.
  4. Edward C. Prescott, 1986. "Theory ahead of business cycle measurement," Staff Report 102, Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis.
  5. 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.
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  11. Fisher, J.D.M. & Hornstein, A., 1995. "(S,s)Inventory Policies in General Equilibrium," UWO Department of Economics Working Papers 9514, University of Western Ontario, Department of Economics.
  12. King, Robert G. & Rebelo, Sergio T., 1999. "Resuscitating real business cycles," Handbook of Macroeconomics, in: J. B. Taylor & M. Woodford (ed.), Handbook of Macroeconomics, edition 1, volume 1, chapter 14, pages 927-1007 Elsevier.
  13. Per Krusell & Anthony A. Smith & Jr., 1998. "Income and Wealth Heterogeneity in the Macroeconomy," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 106(5), pages 867-896, October.
  14. 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.
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  16. 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.
  17. Hansen, Gary D., 1985. "Indivisible labor and the business cycle," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 16(3), pages 309-327, November.
  18. 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.
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  24. Mosser, Patricia C, 1991. "Trade Inventories and (S, s)," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 106(4), pages 1267-86, November.
  25. Daniele Coen-Pirani, 2003. "Microeconomic Inventory Behavior and Aggregate Inventory Dynamics," GSIA Working Papers 2003-E28, Carnegie Mellon University, Tepper School of Business.
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  27. Kydland, Finn E & Prescott, Edward C, 1982. "Time to Build and Aggregate Fluctuations," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 50(6), pages 1345-70, November.
  28. Caplin, Andrew S, 1985. "The Variability of Aggregate Demand with (S, s) Inventory Policies," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 53(6), pages 1395-1409, November.
  29. Christiano, Lawrence J., 1988. "Why does inventory investment fluctuate so much?," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 21(2-3), pages 247-280.
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