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Price setting in turbulent times

By Thorvardur Tjörvi Ólafsson, Ásgerdur Pétursdóttir and Karen Á. Vignisdóttir

Abstract

This price setting survey among Icelandic firms aims to make two contributions to the literature. First, it studies price setting in an advanced economy within a more turbulent macroeconomic environment than has previously been done. The results indicate that price adjustments are to a larger extent driven by exchange rate fluctuations than in most other advanced countries. The median Icelandic firm reviews its prices every four months and changes them every six months. The main sources of price rigidity and the most commonly used price setting methods are the same as in most other countries. A second contribution to the literature is our analysis of the nexus between price setting and exchange rate movements, a topic that has attracted surprisingly limited attention in this survey-based literature. A novel aspect of our approach is to base our analysis on a categorisation of firms in the domestic market by their direct exposure to exchange rate movements captured by imported input costs as a share of total production costs. More exposed firms are found to be more likely to use state-dependent pricing, to adjust their prices in response to exchange rate changes, and to rely on increasing prices rather than decreasing costs to restore profit margins after an exchange rate depreciation. They also review their prices more often but nevertheless, surprisingly, have the same price change frequency as the median firm. On the other hand, price review frequency declines and time-dependent pricing increases as domestic labour costs rise relative to total production costs. The results provide important insight into inflation dynamics due to an interaction between high and asymmetric exchange rate pass-through and price indexation. This interaction causes an exchange rate depreciation to spread to sectors less exposed to such changes through the use of price indexation. Exchange rate pass-through, price indexation and backward-looking behaviour in price setting therefore pose challenges for monetary policy in Iceland.

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