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Business Cycles and Oligopoly Supergames: Some Empirical Evidence on Prices and Margins

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  • Ian Domowitz
  • R. Glenn Hubbard
  • Bruce C. Petersen

Abstract

There has been a significant interest on a theoretical level in the application of supergames to oligopoly behavior. Implications for pricing behavior in trigger-strategy models in response to aggregate demand are of particular importance for public policy considerations. We contrast the predictions for the movements of industry prices over the business cycle of two such models -- put forth by Edward Green and Robert Porter and by Julio Rotemberg and Garth Saloner -- and test the predictions using a panel data set of U.S. manufacturing industries. Our principal findings are four. First, the levels of price-cost margins of concentrated, homogeneous-goods industries, while higher than those of unconcentrated counterparts, appear to be closer to those predicted by a single-period Cournot-Nash equilibrium than monopoly. Second, there is little evidence to support the idea that price-cost margins of these industries have different cyclical patterns from other industries apart from effects by level of industry concentration. Maximum price declines for concentrated industries give little support for the occurrence of price wars during either recessions or booms. Finally, consistent with the predictions of the Rotemberg-Saloner model, the industries with high price-cost margins have more countercyclical price movements than those exhibited by other industries. That gradual price adjustment is quantitatively important for those industries, suggests, however, that other factors may lie behind the apparent rigidity of prices.

Suggested Citation

  • Ian Domowitz & R. Glenn Hubbard & Bruce C. Petersen, 1986. "Business Cycles and Oligopoly Supergames: Some Empirical Evidence on Prices and Margins," NBER Working Papers 2057, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:2057
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Ian Domowitz & R. Glenn Hubbard & Bruce C. Petersen, 1986. "Business Cycles and the Relationship Between Concentration and Price-Cost Margins," RAND Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 17(1), pages 1-17, Spring.
    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. 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.
    4. Rotemberg, Julio J & Saloner, Garth, 1986. "A Supergame-Theoretic Model of Price Wars during Booms," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 76(3), pages 390-407, June.
    5. R. Glenn Hubbard & Robert J. Weiner, 1985. "Nominal Contracting and Price Flexibility in Product Markets," NBER Working Papers 1738, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    6. Domowitz, Ian & Hubbard, R Glenn & Petersen, Bruce C, 1986. "The Intertemporal Stability of the Concentration-Margins Relationship," Journal of Industrial Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 35(1), pages 13-34, September.
    7. 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.
    8. Friedman, James W., 1985. "Cooperative equilibria in finite horizon noncooperative supergames," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 35(2), pages 390-398, August.
    9. Porter, Robert H, 1985. "On the Incidence and Duration of Price Wars," Journal of Industrial Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 33(4), pages 415-426, June.
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