Asymmetric Price Adjustment and Consumer Search: An Examination of the Retail Gasoline Market
It has been documented that retail gasoline prices respond more quickly to increases in wholesale price than to decreases. However, there is very little theoretical or empirical evidence identifying the market characteristics responsible for this behavior. This paper presents a new theoretical model of asymmetric adjustment that empirically matches observed retail gasoline price behavior better than previously suggested explanations. I develop a "reference price" consumer search model that assumes consumers' expectations of prices are based on prices observed during previous purchases. The model predicts that consumers search less when prices are falling. This reduced search results in higher profit margins and therefore causes a slower price response to cost decreases than to cost increases. I then develop testable implications that distinguish my model from two alternative explanations of asymmetric adjustment. The first is a model in which firms temporarily collude using past prices as a focal price. The second theory suggests that increases in wholesale cost volatility reduce consumer search behavior. Using a panel of gas station prices, I estimate the response pattern of prices to a change in costs. Estimates are consistent with the predictions of the reference price search model and contradict the previously suggested explanations of asymmetric price adjustment.
Please report citation or reference errors to , or , if you are the registered author of the cited work, log in to your RePEc Author Service profile, click on "citations" and make appropriate adjustments.:
- Rothschild, Michael, 1974. "Searching for the Lowest Price When the Distribution of Prices Is Unknown," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 82(4), pages 689-711, July/Aug..
- Steven Salop & Joseph Stiglitz, 1977.
"Bargains and Ripoffs: A Model of Monopolistically Competitive Price Dispersion,"
Review of Economic Studies,
Oxford University Press, vol. 44(3), pages 493-510.
- Steven C. Salop & Joseph E. Stiglitz, 1977. "Bargains and ripoffs: a model of monopolistically competitive price dispersion," Special Studies Papers 94, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.).
- Duffy-Deno, Kevin T., 1996. "Retail price asymmetries in local gasoline markets," Energy Economics, Elsevier, vol. 18(1-2), pages 81-92, April.
- Varian, Hal R, 1980. "A Model of Sales," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 70(4), pages 651-659, September.
- Ball, Laurence & Mankiw, N Gregory, 1994. "Asymmetric Price Adjustment and Economic Fluctuations," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 104(423), pages 247-261, March.
- Laurence Ball & N. Gregory Mankiw, 1992. "Asymmetric Price Adjustment and Economic Fluctuations," NBER Working Papers 4089, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
- Ball, L. & Mankiw, N.G., 1992. "Asymmetric Price Adjustment and Economic Fluctuations," Harvard Institute of Economic Research Working Papers 1602, Harvard - Institute of Economic Research.
- Sam Peltzman, 2000. "Prices Rise Faster than They Fall," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 108(3), pages 466-502, June.
- Sam Peltzman, 1998. "Prices Rise Faster Than They Fall," University of Chicago - George G. Stigler Center for Study of Economy and State 142, Chicago - Center for Study of Economy and State.
- Ronald Johnson, 2002. "Search Costs, Lags and Prices at the Pump," Review of Industrial Organization, Springer;The Industrial Organization Society, vol. 20(1), pages 33-50, February.
- Daniel S. Putler, 1992. "Incorporating Reference Price Effects into a Theory of Consumer Choice," Marketing Science, INFORMS, vol. 11(3), pages 287-309.
- 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.
- Severin Borenstein & A. Colin Cameron, 1992. "Do Gasoline Prices Respond Asymmetrically to Crude Oil Price Changes?," NBER Working Papers 4138, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
- Roland Bénabou & Robert Gertner, 1993. "Search with Learning from Prices: Does Increased Inflationary Uncertainty Lead to Higher Markups?," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 60(1), pages 69-93.
- Engle, Robert & Granger, Clive, 2015. "Co-integration and error correction: Representation, estimation, and testing," Applied Econometrics, Publishing House "SINERGIA PRESS", vol. 39(3), pages 106-135.
- Engle, Robert F & Granger, Clive W J, 1987. "Co-integration and Error Correction: Representation, Estimation, and Testing," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 55(2), pages 251-276, March.
- Hastings, Justine, 2000. "Vertical Relationships and Competition in Retail Gasoline Markets: An Empirical Evidence from Contract Changes in Southern California," Competition Policy Center, Working Paper Series qt0bw767hm, Competition Policy Center, Institute for Business and Economic Research, UC Berkeley.
- Rafael Rob, 1985. "Equilibrium Price Distributions," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 52(3), pages 487-504.
- Barry K. Goodwin & Matthew T. Holt, 1999. "Price Transmission and Asymmetric Adjustment in the U.S. Beef Sector," American Journal of Agricultural Economics, Agricultural and Applied Economics Association, vol. 81(3), pages 630-637.
- Gurumurthy Kalyanaram & Russell S. Winer, 1995. "Empirical Generalizations from Reference Price Research," Marketing Science, INFORMS, vol. 14(3_supplem), pages 161-169.
- James M. O'Brien, 2000. "Estimating the value and interest rate risk of interest-bearing transactions deposits," Finance and Economics Discussion Series 2000-53, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.).
- Enders, Walter & Granger, Clive W J, 1998. "Unit-Root Tests and Asymmetric Adjustment with an Example Using the Term Structure of Interest Rates," Journal of Business & Economic Statistics, American Statistical Association, vol. 16(3), pages 304-311, July.
- Enders, Walter & Granger, C. W. J., 1998. "Unit Root Tests and Asymmetric Adjustment with an Example Using the Term Structure of Interest Rates," Staff General Research Papers Archive 1388, Iowa State University, Department of Economics.
- Tom Doan, "undated". "RATS programs to replicate Enders/Granger JBES(1998)on threshold unit roots," Statistical Software Components RTZ00054, Boston College Department of Economics.
- 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.
- Stock, James H, 1987. "Asymptotic Properties of Least Squares Estimators of Cointegrating Vectors," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 55(5), pages 1035-1056, September.
- Jan F. Kiviet, 1986. "On the Rigour of Some Misspecification Tests for Modelling Dynamic Relationships," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 53(2), pages 241-261.
- Andrew Eckert, 2002. "Retail price cycles and response asymmetry," Canadian Journal of Economics, Canadian Economics Association, vol. 35(1), pages 52-77, February. Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)
When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:wpa:wuwpio:0407010. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.
For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (EconWPA)
If references are entirely missing, you can add them using this form.