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Gasoline and crude oil prices: why the asymmetry?

Stephen Brown and Mine Yucel

Economic and Financial Policy Review, 2000, issue Q3, 23-29

Abstract: Many consumers complain that gasoline and crude oil prices have an asymmetric relationship in which gasoline prices raise more quickly when crude oil prices are rising than they fall when crude oil prices are falling. Many also regard the asymmetry they observe as evidence of market power in the petroleum industry. Most previous research provides econometric evidence of the asymmetry, confirming at least part of what consumers suspect. In this article Stephen Brown and Mine Yucel extend the inquiry by examining the market conditions underlying the asymmetric relationship between gasoline and crude oil prices. They find the observed asymmetry is unlikely to be the result of monopoly power. The remaining explanations for the asymmetry suggest that policies to prevent an asymmetric relationship between gasoline and crude oil prices are likely to reduce economic efficiency.

Date: 2000
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