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The Consumption Terms of Trade and Commodity Prices

  • Martin Berka
  • Mario J. Crucini

The national terms of trade, defined as the ratio of an export price index to an import price index has been extensively studied empirically. In this paper we construct an alternative measure, which we call the consumption terms of trade. This measure recognizes the fact that consumers and firms face different prices for the same items and consume different items. Using micro-data from the Economist Intelligence Unit at the retail level, we conduct a forensic analysis of the variation of the terms of trade of 38 countries. Using a novel variance decomposition method, we find that the bulk of terms of trade variation is accounted for by oil, automobiles and medicine. The other goods in our construct tend to exhibit balanced trade, providing a natural hedge against world price fluctuations. We find the consumption terms of trade at local prices is more volatile than at world prices, but the two are strongly positively correlated. The same commodities dominate the variance decomposition in both constructs, but variance shifts from oil to medicine, when local prices are used, presumably due to larger LOP deviations in the latter than the former. The significant differences in time paths of producer (conventional) and consumer terms of trade suggests the need to adapt the elasticities approach to trade balance adjustment to recognize different prices and baskets at the consumer and producer level.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 15580.

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Date of creation: Dec 2009
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Publication status: published as The Consumption Terms of Trade and Commodity Prices , Martin Berka, Mario J. Crucini. in Commodity Prices and Markets, East Asia Seminar on Economics, Volume 20 , Ito and Rose. 2011
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:15580
Note: IFM
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  1. Frankel, Jeffrey & Parsley, David & Wei, Shang-Jin, 2005. "Slow Passthrough Around the World: A New Import for Developing Countries?," Working Paper Series rwp05-016, Harvard University, John F. Kennedy School of Government.
  2. Rogers, John H., 2007. "Monetary union, price level convergence, and inflation: How close is Europe to the USA?," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 54(3), pages 785-796, April.
  3. Hamilton, James D, 1983. "Oil and the Macroeconomy since World War II," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 91(2), pages 228-48, April.
  4. Backus, David K & Kehoe, Patrick J & Kydland, Finn E, 1994. "Dynamics of the Trade Balance and the Terms of Trade: The J-Curve?," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 84(1), pages 84-103, March.
  5. David K. Backus & Mario J. Crucini, 1998. "Oil Prices and the Terms of Trade," NBER Working Papers 6697, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  6. Hadass, Yael S & Williamson, Jeffrey G, 2003. "Terms-of-Trade Shocks and Economic Performance, 1870-1940: Prebisch and Singer Revisited," Economic Development and Cultural Change, University of Chicago Press, vol. 51(3), pages 629-56, April.
  7. Mendoza, Enrique G, 1995. "The Terms of Trade, the Real Exchange Rate, and Economic Fluctuations," International Economic Review, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania and Osaka University Institute of Social and Economic Research Association, vol. 36(1), pages 101-37, February.
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