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Collusion Over the Business Cycle

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  • Kyle Bagwell
  • Robert W. Staiger

Abstract

We present a theory of collusive pricing in markets subject to business cycle fluctuations. In the business cycle model that we adopt, market demand alternates stochastically between fast-growth (boom) and slow-growth (recession) phases. We provide a complete characterization of the most-collusive prices and show that: (1). the most-collusive prices may be procyclical (countercyclical) when demand growth rates are postively (negatively) correlated through time, and (2). the amplitude of the collusive pricing cycle is larger when the expected duration of boom phases decreases and when the expected duration of recession phases increases. We also offer a generalization of Rotemberg and Saloner's (1986) model, and interpret their findings in terms of transitory demand shocks that occur within broader business cycle phases.

Suggested Citation

  • Kyle Bagwell & Robert W. Staiger, 1995. "Collusion Over the Business Cycle," Discussion Papers 1118, Northwestern University, Center for Mathematical Studies in Economics and Management Science.
  • Handle: RePEc:nwu:cmsems:1118
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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, pages 1-17.
    2. Miron, Jeffrey A & Zeldes, Stephen P, 1988. "Seasonality, Cost Shocks, and the Production Smoothing Models of Inventories," Econometrica, Econometric Society, pages 877-908.
    3. Green, Edward J & Porter, Robert H, 1984. "Noncooperative Collusion under Imperfect Price Information," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 52(1), pages 87-100, January.
    4. Bils, Mark, 1987. "The Cyclical Behavior of Marginal Cost and Price," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, pages 838-855.
    5. Robert W. Staiger & Frank A. Wolak, 1992. "Collusive Pricing with Capacity Constraints in the Presence of Demand Uncertainty," RAND Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, pages 203-220.
    6. Chevalier, Judith A & Scharfstein, David S, 1996. "Capital-Market Imperfections and Countercyclical Markups: Theory and Evidence," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, pages 703-725.
    7. Chevalier, Judith A & Scharfstein, David S, 1996. "Capital-Market Imperfections and Countercyclical Markups: Theory and Evidence," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, pages 703-725.
    8. Rotemberg, Julio J & Woodford, Michael, 1992. "Oligopolistic Pricing and the Effects of Aggregate Demand on Economic Activity," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 100(6), pages 1153-1207, December.
    9. Rotemberg, Julio J & Saloner, Garth, 1986. "A Supergame-Theoretic Model of Price Wars during Booms," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, pages 390-407.
    10. Michihiro Kandori, 1991. "Correlated Demand Shocks and Price Wars During Booms," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 58(1), pages 171-180.
    11. Hamilton, James D, 1989. "A New Approach to the Economic Analysis of Nonstationary Time Series and the Business Cycle," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 57(2), pages 357-384, March.
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    JEL classification:

    • L1 - Industrial Organization - - Market Structure, Firm Strategy, and Market Performance

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