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Do Firms Smooth the Seasonal in Production in a Boom? Theory and Evidence

  • Stephen G. Cecchetti
  • Anil K Kashyap
  • David W. Wilcox

Using disaggregated production data we show that the size of seasonal cycles changes significantly over the course of the business cycle. In particular, during periods of high economy-wide activity, some industries smooth seasonal fluctuations while others exaggerate them. We interpret this finding using a simple analytical model that describes the conditions under which seasonal and cyclical fluctuations can be separated. Our model implies that seasonal fluctuations can safely be disentangled from cyclical fluctuations only when the marginal cost of production is linear, and the variation in demand and cost satisfy certain (restrictive) conditions. The model also suggests that inventory movements can be used to isolate the role of demand shifts in generating any interaction between seasonal cycles and business cycles. Thus, the empirical analysis involves studying the variation in seasonally unadjusted patterns of production and inventory accumulation over different phases of the business cycle. Our finding that seasonals shrink during booms and that firms carry more inventories into high sales seasons during a boom leads us to conclude that for several industries, marginal cost slopes up at an increasing rate. Conversely, in a couple of industries we find that seasonal swings in production are exaggerated during booms and that inventories are drawn down prior to high sales seasons, suggesting that marginal costs curves flatten as production increases. Overall, we find considerable evidence that there are non-linear interactions between business cycles and seasonal cycles.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 5011.

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Date of creation: Feb 1995
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Publication status: published as American Economic Review, Vol. 87, no. 5 (December 1997): 884-892.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:5011
Note: EFG ME
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  1. Julio J. Rotemberg & Michael Woodford, 1993. "Dynamic General Equilibrium Models with Imperfectly Competitive Product Markets," NBER Working Papers 4502, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. Alan S. Blinder, 1984. "Can The Production Smoothing Model of Inventory Behavior be Saved?," NBER Working Papers 1257, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. Ray C. Fair, 1989. "The Production Smoothing Model Is Alive and Well," Cowles Foundation Discussion Papers 896, Cowles Foundation for Research in Economics, Yale University.
  4. Andrews, Donald W. K., 1998. "Hypothesis testing with a restricted parameter space," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 84(1), pages 155-199, May.
  5. Newey, Whitney K & West, Kenneth D, 1987. "A Simple, Positive Semi-definite, Heteroskedasticity and Autocorrelation Consistent Covariance Matrix," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 55(3), pages 703-08, May.
  6. J. Joseph Beaulieu & Jeffrey K. MacKie-Mason & Jeffrey A. Miron, 1991. "Why Do Countries and Industries with Large Seasonal Cycles Also Have Large Business Cycles?," NBER Working Papers 3635, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  7. Dixit, Avinash K & Stiglitz, Joseph E, 1977. "Monopolistic Competition and Optimum Product Diversity," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 67(3), pages 297-308, June.
  8. Barsky, Robert B & Miron, Jeffrey A, 1989. "The Seasonal Cycle and the Business Cycle," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 97(3), pages 503-34, June.
  9. J. Joseph Beaulieu & Jeffrey A. Miron, 1990. "The Seasonal Cycle in U.S. Manufacturing," Papers 0012, Boston University - Industry Studies Programme.
  10. Ramey, Valerie A, 1991. "Nonconvex Costs and the Behavior of Inventories," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 99(2), pages 306-34, April.
  11. Bresnahan, Timothy F & Ramey, Valerie A, 1994. "Output Fluctuations at the Plant Level," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 109(3), pages 593-624, August.
  12. Kenneth D. West, 1993. "Inventory Models," NBER Technical Working Papers 0143, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  13. Spencer D. Krane, 1991. "Induced seasonality and production-smoothing models of inventory behavior," Working Paper Series / Economic Activity Section 121, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.).
  14. Cooper, Russell & Haltiwanger, John, 1993. "The Aggregate Implications of Machine Replacement: Theory and Evidence," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 83(3), pages 360-82, June.
  15. Blanchard, Olivier J, 1983. "The Production and Inventory Behavior of the American Automobile Industry," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 91(3), pages 365-400, June.
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