Food Prices Fuel Egypt Unrest
"Companies need to consider what an oil shock would do to their business and create a contingency plan for that event. It may not happen, but at this point a company that didn't plan ahead would look pretty negligent if something did happen," Colas said.
Doug Roberts, chief investment strategist for Channel Capital Research, shared a similar sentiment. He told TheStreet that a disruption of the Suez Canal, a narrow passage where millions of barrels of crude oil pass every day each year, would lead to spiking oil prices and significantly higher costs for companies with global operations.
Businesses around the world that rely on oil and goods shipped through the Suez Canal would either need to look for alternative suppliers that do not travel through the passageway, or for alternate, more expensive shipping routes such as heading south and circling around South Africa.
Oil tanker shares like General Maritime (GMR), Frontline (FRO), Overseas Shipholding (OSG) and even DryShips (DRYS), which operates dry-bulk ships but also operates a small fleet of oil-exploration ships, soared last week as the political turmoil in Egypt triggered speculation that the Suez Canal might be shut down. This week, big shipping stocks fell back as fears of a Suez closure eased.Transocean shippers get paid by the mile, so longer shipping routes would prove lucrative as the group could charge higher rates. But consumer goods and food products companies which hire the shippers will have to pay more for the transportation of their raw materials and other goods. That means that global companies "will either have to raise prices or see lower profit margins," Colas said. "Since consumer fundamentals are still weak, they may not be able to pass along price increases." Colas said firms that produce "high-ticket consumer goods" like cars and major appliances would suffer the most adverse effects, firms such as Toyota Motor (TM), Apple (AAPL), Sony (SNE) and Whirlpool (WHR), for example. Food producers, too, would suffer margin compression amid higher oil prices, and that in turn would lead to greater food inflation.
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