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Dynamic Pricing in Retail Gasoline Markets

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  • Severin Borenstein
  • Andrea Shepard

Abstract

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
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    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.
    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. Severin Borenstein & A. Colin Cameron & Richard Gilbert, 1997. "Do Gasoline Prices Respond Asymmetrically to Crude Oil Price Changes?," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 112(1), pages 305-339.
    6. Robert H. Porter, 1983. "A Study of Cartel Stability: The Joint Executive Committee, 1880-1886," Bell Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 14(2), pages 301-314, Autumn.
    7. Dahl, Carol & Sterner, Thomas, 1991. "Analysing gasoline demand elasticities: a survey," Energy Economics, Elsevier, vol. 13(3), pages 203-210, July.
    8. 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.
    9. Jeffrey D. Karrenbrock, 1991. "The behavior of retail gasoline prices: symmetric or not?," Review, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, issue Jul, pages 19-29.
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