Billionaire Warren Buffett is joining the long list of executives saying serious levels of inflation are starting to take hold as the U.S. economy roars back from the COVID-19 downturn.
“We are seeing substantial inflation,” Buffett said at the Berkshire Hathaway annual shareholder meeting broadcast exclusively by Yahoo Finance. “We are raising prices. People are raising prices to us, and it’s being accepted.”
Buffett called out much higher steel costs impacting Berkshire’s housing and furniture businesses.
“People have money in their pocket, and they pay higher prices… it’s almost a buying frenzy,” Buffett said, noting that the economy is “red hot.”
The Oracle of Omaha isn’t alone in battling inflation at the moment from everything to higher steel prices to runaway copper prices.
The number of mentions of “inflation” during first quarter earnings calls this month have tripled year-over-year, the biggest jump dating back to 2004, according to fresh research from Bank of America strategist Savita Subramanian. Raw materials, transportation, and labor were cited as the main drivers of inflation.
Subramanian’s research found that the number of inflation mentions has historically led the consumer price index by a quarter, with 52% correlation. In other words, Subramanian thinks investors could see a “robust” rebound in inflation in coming months in the wake of the latest round of C-suite commentary.
“Inflation is arguably the biggest topic during this earnings season, with a broad array of sectors (Consumer/Industrials/Materials, etc.) citing inflation pressures,” Subramanian notes.
The world’s biggest companies are taking action, just like Buffett at Berkshire.
Proctor & Gamble said recently it would begin to hike prices on baby care, feminine care and adult incontinence products in the United States. Price increases will range from mid- to high-single digit percentages. The hikes will go into effect in mid-September.
Whirlpool CFO Jim Peters recently told Yahoo Finance Live the appliance maker just jacked up prices by 5% to 12% to counteract rising steel costs.
Kleenex maker Kimberly-Clark said it will increase prices in the U.S. and Canada on the majority of its consumer products due to “significant” commodity cost inflation. The percentage increases will range from mid- to high-single digits and go into effect in June.
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