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A price signal is information conveyed to consumers and producers, via the price charged for a product or service, which provides a signal to increase/decrease supply and/or that the demand for the priced item has increased/decreased.
Alternative theories include that prices reflect relative pricing power of producers and consumers. A monopoly may set prices so as to maximize monopoly profit regardless of actual costs of supply or demand while a cartel may engage in price fixing. Conversely, on the consumer side, a monopsony may negotiate or demand prices that do not reflect the cost of production.
A long thread in economics (from Aristotle to classical economics to the present) distinguishes between exchange value, use value, price, and (sometimes) intrinsic value. It is frequently argued that the connection between price and other types of value is not as direct as suggested in the theory of price signals, other considerations playing a part.
Financial speculation, particularly buying or selling assets with borrowed money, can move prices away from their economic fundamentals. Credit bubbles can sometimes distort the price signal mechanism, causing large-scale malinvestment and financial crises. Adherents of the Austrian economics attribute this phenomenon to the interference of central bankers, which they propose to eliminate by introducing full-reserve banking. post-Keynesian economists, such as Hyman Minsky, have described it as a fundamental flaw of capitalism, corrected by financial regulation. Both schools have been the subject of renewed attention in the Western world since the financial crisis of 2007–2010.
Firms use price discrimination to increase profits by charging different prices to different consumers or groups of consumers. Price discrimination may be regarded as an unfair practice used to drive out competitors
- Boudreaux, Donald J. "Information and Prices". The Concise Encyclopedia of Economics. Library of Economics and Liberty (econlib.org). Retrieved 11 January 2013.