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Mnuchin’s Wrong: Here’s Why Investors Should Be Very Worried About Inflation

Despite Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin’s bizarre insistence that there’s no connection between consumer-price inflation and rising energy prices and wages, these factors – plus a spate of others – are forcing some food companies to consider raising prices on goods from chicken to cereal, according to Reuters.

One of these factors, as Reuters explores in a wide-ranging feature published on Monday, involves US trucking and railroad operators foisting higher shipping rates on customers like General Mills Inc. and Hormel Foods Corp.

According to Reuters, transportation costs are climbing at double the rate of inflation.

These increases are catching food companies off guard. Struggling railroads and trucking companies haven’t expanded their capacity, choosing instead to focus on cost cuts – much to Wall Street’s delight.

Interviews with executives at 10 companies across the food, consumer goods and commodities sectors reveal that many are grappling with how to defend their profit margins as transportation costs climb at nearly double the inflation rate.

Two executives told Reuters their companies do plan to raise prices, though they would not divulge by how much. A third said it was discussing prospective price increases with retailers.

The prospect of higher prices on chicken, cereal and snacks costs comes as inflation emerged as a more distinct threat in recent weeks. The U.S. Labor Department reported earlier this month that underlying consumer prices in January posted their biggest gain in more than a year.

As US economic growth has revved up, railroads and truck fleets have not expanded capacity to keep pace – a decision applauded by Wall Street. Shares of CSX Corp, Norfolk Southern, and Union Pacific Corp have risen an average 22 percent over the past year as they cut headcount, locomotives and rail cars, and lengthened trains to lower expenses and raise margins.

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