Essays on imperfect information and imperfect competition
MetadataShow full item record
This dissertation investigates three questions about pricing and information acquisition incentives of imperfectly competitive firms, and studies the macroeconomic implications of those incentives within general equilibrium models. Chapter 1 studies why in countries where inflation has been low and stable, price setters display highly dispersed aggregate inflation expectations; especially so when they face fewer competitors. In contrast to the predictions of standard models, realized inflation deviates significantly from price setters’ aggregate inflation expectations. Instead, their own-industry inflation expectations are more accurate, and aggregate inflation tracks these expectations closely. I propose a new dynamic model of rational inattention with oligopolistic competition to explain these stylized facts. The Phillips curve relates aggregate inflation to price setters’ own-industry inflation expectation, and firms forego learning about aggregate variables to focus on their own-industry prices. This incentive is stronger when every firm faces fewer competitors. Using new firm-level survey evidence, I calibrate the degree of rational inattention and industry size in the model and find that a two-fold increase in the number of competitors reduces the half-life and on-impact response of output to a monetary policy shock by 40 and 15 percent, respectively. Chapter 2 is about the behavior of the price-cost markups. The cyclicality of markups is crucial to understanding the propagation of shocks and the comovement of macroeconomic variables. I show that the degree of inertia in the response of output to shocks is a fundamental determining factor for the cyclicality of markups in a broad class of models. In particular, markups follow a forward looking law of motion in which they depend on firms’ conditional expectations over the net present value of all future changes in output. I test this law of motion with data for firms’ expectations and find that, across different types of microfounded models of cyclical markups, the behavior of firms is most consistent with implicit collusion models. Calibrating an implicit collusion model to the U.S. data, I find that markups are procyclical when the model matches the observed inertial response of output to shocks, as commonly found in the data. Chapter 3 studies the pricing behavior of rationally inattentive firms when they face persistent productivity shocks along with transitory demand shocks. I show that prices respond persistently to transitory demand shocks, as firms optimally choose to be confused about the two types of the shocks. When a positive transitory demand shock is realized, it takes time for firms to disentangle it from a supply shock, during which they act as if there was a negative aggregate productivity shock. Therefore, an expansion caused by a positive demand shock is followed by a recession until firms fully recognize the origin of the change in their optimal price. I also develop a tractable method for solving linear quadratic rational inattention models in continuous time and derive semi-analytical results for impulse response functions of endogenous variables under rational inattention.