This morning’s Chicago ISM jumped to its highest reading since 1988. The recovery in manufacturing is robust and appears to have continued this month. This bodes well for tomorrow’s ISM manufacturing report, however, the commentary in the Chicago ISM report shows deep concerns about margin compression. The sampling of survey comments shows an almost uniform concern over rising prices:
1. ―Costs continue to escalate. Tight inventories still slowing down supplier response and stretching out lead-times. Sales are robust causing challenging inventory balancing act when combined with the aforementioned lead-time issue. Do more with less policies more prevalent which, for now, positively impacts the bottom line. However, the resulting burnout and multitasking are starting to take their toll on quality of work and respective yields.
2. ―Business continues very strong. Hopefully the steel companies won’t price themselves out of the recovery.
3. ―Steel prices are increasing weekly.
4. ―Inflation varies according to independent commodities–e.g., energy or cotton–individually influenced by fluctuating geopolitical or natural-disaster pressures in 2009 and 2010. Such individual commodities are not seen as an indication of averaged or overall general economic health.
5. ―Our larger volume items are protected by long-term blankets but on other items, suppliers are presenting fabrication price increases anywhere from 3-5%. A number of suppliers use surcharges to accommodate rising prices in fuel, energy and metal prices.
6. ―Price increase requests continue. Recent announcement that Whirlpool, Kraft, and Victoria’s Secret will raise consumer pricing due to the cotton, metals and food markets operating at historically high levels. Unemployment remains a strong concern for macro-economic outlook and local government. Ultimately, the turbulence continues…please keep your seat belts fastened.
7. ―My vendors have created such low inventory that now that business is picking up they cannot meet my demand. Lead times have been very long and unpredictable.
8. ―1. Raw materials and Resins for Injection Molding unstable. 2. Lead times have been extended in our system to assure delivery considering component shortages.
9. ―We continue to lend although there remains a lot of economic stress within the small to mid size local business community.
10. ―Hiring is now above pre-layoff levels Hiring is targeted to Rock Stars who make MUCH MUCH more than previously eliminated managers Sales remain unchanged, Cost increases are due to salary increases for new Rock Stars and HR consulting fees for helping to hire new Rock Stars. Cool Aid for everyone.
11. ―Seeing turn around in a few areas TOO MANY FRICKEN SPECULATORS in market causing higher price plus weaker dollar and China. Other then that well go figure.
Mr. Roche is the Founder and Chief Investment Officer of Discipline Funds.Discipline Funds is a low fee financial advisory firm with a focus on helping people be more disciplined with their finances.
He is also the author of Pragmatic Capitalism: What Every Investor Needs to Understand About Money and Finance, Understanding the Modern Monetary System and Understanding Modern Portfolio Construction.