Judging by the latest comments on inflation from the nation's biggest consumer products companies, Fed chair Jerome Powell might have to raise interest rates seven times this year instead of the three times widely expected by investors.
"Like the broader industry, we're seeing sharp increases in input costs, including inflation in freight and commodities. Because of our improved volume performance, we're also incurring higher operational costs," General Mills (GIS) - Get Report CEO Jeff Harmening said Wednesday. "We are moving urgently to address this increasingly dynamic cost inflation environment."
General Mills subsequently slashed its full year profit outlook owing to percolating inflation. It now sees core operating profits falling 5% to 6% vs. a previous estimate of down 1% to unchanged.
Shares plunged as much as 9.5% on the session.
By no means is General Mills alone on feeling the profit-busting force known as inflation.
"Labor has been going up the last few years, and we have been increasing wages - it started three years ago, but the last two years has been nearly double-digit percentage increases, so that is a cost that we are passing through," Hayes told TheStreet below.
A fresh concern for Hayes is the trucking shortage in America that is pushing up costs. For Tyson, it expects a $200 million profit hit this year alone due to rising transportation and distribution costs.
The U.S. trucking market, which represents about 70% of all U.S. freight by tonnage, has tightened significantly as a strong economy, new trucking industry regulations and a limited driver supply put pressure on the space, Macquarie Research analyst Caroline Levy wrote recently.
Trucking is in the tightest market seen since 2004, with U.S. truck capacity utilization at 100% in the first half of this year. According to Macquarie, any utilization above 95% is considered a tight market. As a result, truckload rates such as fuel surcharges are expected to rise 10% to 11% in the first half of the year, while diesel prices could gain 20% to 23%.
There exists a limited supply of able drivers, too, Levy wrote. The average age of a truck driver is 55 years, plus the industry is facing increasing competition from construction in attracting young, drug-free workers. Construction typically requires fewer long nights and often pays better, though the two draw from the same pool of workers. That will likely result in the necessity of increasing wages, which will be passed through to shippers through higher rates.
The labor shortage is expected to top 250,000 drivers in the first half of 2018, creating the worst shortage on record. The driver supply is expected to grow a little in the back half of the year, though, as hurricane-related construction projects begin to slow.
Here are several other consumer companies highlighting inflation. Get ready to pay more for tissues, dish soap and cereal.
Procter & Gamble
Said P&G Chief Financial Officer Jon Moeller on P&G's recent call:
"Commodity prices have continued to move higher as the year has progressed approaching a $350 million after-tax impact versus year ago for the fiscal year. We knew we'd see higher pulp costs going into the year. These costs have continued to increase beyond initial forecast ranges with strong demand and some recent supply disruption. Ethylene, propylene, kerosene, and polyethylene and polypropylene resins have increased recently primarily as a result of the fall hurricanes in the Gulf, but also due to recent increases in crude pricing.
Delivery costs have also been rising as demand for drivers outstrip supply. As a result, core gross margin declined 80 basis points versus year ago. 150 basis points of productivity savings were more than offset by headwinds of 90 points from higher commodity costs, 70 basis points of mixed impact, 50 basis points from pricing primarily Gillette, and 40 basis points of reinvestment in product and packaging innovation."
Cautioned Chief Financial Officer Maria Henry on a its latest earnings call:
"Cost savings will continue to be an important driver of our performance. Our teams are targeting to deliver approximately $400 million in FORCE savings and $50 million to $70 million from the restructuring. Those savings will help us offset cost inflation, which we anticipate will be between $300 million and $400 million. More than half of that inflation is projected to come in international market.
At this point, we are planning for wide spread selling price increases because of commodity inflation. That said, we have taken or expected to take selective increases in some of our businesses. That includes in KCP and in our consumer businesses in the DNA market."