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Input and Output Inventory Dynamics

This paper develops an analytically tractable general-equilibrium model of inventory dynamics based on a precautionary stockout-avoidance motive. The model’s predictions are broadly consistent with the U.S. business cycle and key features of inventory behavior. It is also shown that technological improvement of inventory management can increase, rather than decrease, the volatility of aggregate output. Key to this seemingly counterintuitive result is that a stockout-avoidance motive leads to a procyclical shadow value of inventories, which acts as an automatic stabilizer that discourages sales in booms and encourages demand in recessions, thereby reducing the variability of GDP.

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