Fixed transaction costs and delivery lags are important costs of international trade. These costs lead firms to import infrequently and hold substantially larger inventories of imported goods than domestic goods. Using multiple sources of data, we document these facts. We then show that a parsimoniously parameterized model economy with importers facing an (S, s)-type inventory management problem successfully accounts for these features of the data. Moreover, the model can account for import and import price dynamics in the aftermath of large devaluations. In particular, desired inventory adjustment in response to a sudden, large increase in the relative price of imported goods creates a short-term trade implosion, an immediate, temporary drop in the value and number of distinct varieties imported, as well as a slow increase in the retail price of imported goods. Our study of six current account reversals following large devaluation episodes in the last decade provide strong support for the model’s predictions.
Alessandria, George, Joseph P. Kaboski, and Virgiliu Midrigan. 2008. “Inventories, Lumpy Trade, and Large Devaluations,” Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco Working Paper 2008-24. Available at https://doi.org/10.24148/wp2008-24