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Dynamic Pricing in Retail Gasoline Markets


  • Severin Borenstein
  • Andrea Shepard


This paper tests for price patterns in retail gasoline markets consistent with those predicted by models of implicit collusion among firms. Recent supergame models show that the highest supportable collusive price is a function of today's profit relative to expected future profit: collusive prices are higher when predictable changes in demand or cost lead firms to expect that collusive profits are increasing rather than declining. Ceteris paribus, collusive profits will be expected to increase when demand is expected to increase and/or costs are expected to decline. Using panel data on sales volume, and retail and wholesale prices in 59 cities over 72 months, we find results consistent with these predictions. Controlling for current demand and input price, the elasticity of current retail margins with respect to expected next-month demand is about 0.37. The elasticity of current margins with respect to next-month wholesale price is about -0.37. The results are inconsistent with inventory effects.

Suggested Citation

  • Severin Borenstein & Andrea Shepard, 1993. "Dynamic Pricing in Retail Gasoline Markets," NBER Working Papers 4489, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:4489
    Note: IO

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Gilbert, Richard J. & Newbery, David M., 1988. "Regulation Games," Department of Economics, Working Paper Series qt50s6h8c6, Department of Economics, Institute for Business and Economic Research, UC Berkeley.
    2. Shepard, Andrea, 1991. "Price Discrimination and Retail Configuration," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 99(1), pages 30-53, February.
    3. John Haltiwanger & Joseph E. Harrington Jr., 1991. "The Impact of Cyclical Demand Movements on Collusive Behavior," RAND Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 22(1), pages 89-106, Spring.
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    Cited by:

    1. Haucap, Justus & Heimeshoff, Ulrich & Siekmann, Manuel, 2015. "Price dispersion and station heterogeneity on German retail gasoline markets," DICE Discussion Papers 171, University of Düsseldorf, Düsseldorf Institute for Competition Economics (DICE).
    2. da Silva, André Suriane & Vasconcelos, Cláudio Roberto Fóffano & Vasconcelos, Silvinha Pinto & de Mattos, Rogério Silva, 2014. "Symmetric transmission of prices in the retail gasoline market in Brazil," Energy Economics, Elsevier, vol. 43(C), pages 11-21.
    3. Chakravorty, Ujjayant & Leach, Andrew & Moreaux, Michel, 2011. "Would hotelling kill the electric car?," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 61(3), pages 281-296, May.
    4. Haucap, Justus & Heimeshoff, Ulrich & Siekmann, Manuel, 2016. "Selling gasoline as a by-product: The impact of market structure on local prices," DICE Discussion Papers 240, University of Düsseldorf, Düsseldorf Institute for Competition Economics (DICE).
    5. Stephen P. A. Brown & Mine K. Yücel, 2000. "Gasoline and crude oil prices: why the asymmetry?," Economic and Financial Policy Review, Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas, issue Q3, pages 23-29.
    6. Antoniou, Fabio & Fiocco, Raffaele & Guo, Dongyu, 2017. "Asymmetric price adjustments: A supply side approach," International Journal of Industrial Organization, Elsevier, vol. 50(C), pages 335-360.
    7. Carol A. Dahl & Tyler Hodge, 2012. "A dynamic conduct parameter model of electricity marketer pricing behavior in the California power exchange," Working Papers 2012-15, Colorado School of Mines, Division of Economics and Business.
    8. J. Isaac Brannon, 2003. "The effects of resale price maintenance laws on petrol prices and station attrition: empirical evidence from Wisconsin," Applied Economics, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 35(3), pages 343-349.
    9. Aviv Nevo & Michael D. Whinston, 2010. "Taking the Dogma out of Econometrics: Structural Modeling and Credible Inference," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 24(2), pages 69-82, Spring.
    10. Bernardita Piedrabuena, 2013. "Competencia en el mercado bancario del crédito en Chile," IDB Publications (Working Papers) 4630, Inter-American Development Bank.
    11. Johri, Alok, 2001. "Markups and the Seasonal Cycle," Journal of Macroeconomics, Elsevier, vol. 23(3), pages 367-395, July.
    12. Al-Gudhea, Salim & Kenc, Turalay & Dibooglu, Sel, 2007. "Do retail gasoline prices rise more readily than they fall?: A threshold cointegration approach," Journal of Economics and Business, Elsevier, vol. 59(6), pages 560-574.
    13. Riemer P. Faber, 2009. "Asymmetric Price Responses of Gasoline Stations: Evidence for Heterogeneity of Retailers," Tinbergen Institute Discussion Papers 09-106/1, Tinbergen Institute.
    14. Eibelshäuser, Steffen & Wilhelm, Sascha, 2017. "Markets Take Breaks: Dynamic Price Competition with Opening Hours," Annual Conference 2017 (Vienna): Alternative Structures for Money and Banking 168247, Verein für Socialpolitik / German Economic Association.
    15. Yusupova, Guzel & Kiseleva, Olga, 2015. "Was there a collusion? (Once again on the monopolistically high prices of Russian oil companies)," Economic Policy, Russian Presidential Academy of National Economy and Public Administration, vol. 4, pages 178-195.

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