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Trade and Uncertainty

  • Dennis Novy
  • Alan M. Taylor

We offer a new explanation as to why international trade is so volatile in response to economic shocks. Our approach combines the uncertainty shock idea of Bloom (2009) with a model of international trade, extending the idea to the open economy. Firms import intermediate inputs from home or foreign suppliers, but with higher costs in the latter case. Due to fixed costs of ordering firms hold an inventory of intermediates. We show that in response to an uncertainty shock firms optimally adjust their inventory policy by cutting their orders of foreign intermediates disproportionately strongly. In the aggregate, this response leads to a bigger contraction in international trade flows than in domestic economic activity. We confront the model with newly-compiled monthly aggregate U.S. import data and industrial production data going back to 1962, and also with disaggregated data back to 1989. Our results suggest a tight link between uncertainty and the cyclical behavior of international trade.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 19941.

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Date of creation: Feb 2014
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:19941
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  1. Jonathan Eaton & Sam Kortum & Brent Neiman & John Romalis, 2010. "Trade and the global recession," Working Paper Research 196, National Bank of Belgium.
  2. George Alessandria & Joseph P. Kaboski & Virgiliu Midrigan, 2010. "The great trade collapse of 2008-2009: an inventory adjustment?," Working Papers 10-18, Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia.
  3. McDonald, Robert & Siegel, Daniel, 1986. "The Value of Waiting to Invest," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 101(4), pages 707-27, November.
  4. Ferdinand Rauch, 2015. "Resetting the Urban Network 117-2012," 2015 Meeting Papers 203, Society for Economic Dynamics.
  5. Paravisini, Daniel & Rappoport, Veronica & Schnabl, Philipp & Wolfenzon, Daniel, 2010. "Dissecting the Effect of Credit Supply on Trade: Evidence from Matched Credit-Export Data," Working Papers 2010-022, Banco Central de Reserva del Perú.
  6. Virgiliu Midrigan & Joseph Kaboski & George Alessandria, 2010. "The Great Trade Collapse of 2008-09: An Inventory Adjustment?," 2010 Meeting Papers 107, Society for Economic Dynamics.
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