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Data: IHS Markit; Chart: Sara Wise/Axios

One of the more reliable predictors of inflation is the amount of time it takes for suppliers to deliver goods to businesses. And those wait times have been getting longer.

Why it matters: Inflation is rising. It’s a big concern for consumers and top of mind for the central bankers responsible for promoting price stability.

  • Suppliers’ delivery times have a particularly strong correlation to inflation because a longer wait time is a sign of a shortage.

Flashback: Suppliers’ delivery times were one of Alan Greenspan’s favorite leading indicators of inflation.

State of play: When delivery times lengthen we typically see price growth accelerate, IHS Markit chief business economist Chris Williamson observed in a research note on Wednesday.

Between the lines: Businesses selling a lot of goods will order more from their suppliers. If suppliers can't deliver in a timely manner, businesses will have fewer goods to sell to demanding customers.

  • This gives businesses leverage to raise prices. Also, if they don’t have much excess inventory to offload, then customers won’t find many deals in the discount bins.

Zoom out: Longer supplier delivery times in recent months can be tied to the COVID-19 pandemic, which led to factories idling and workers staying home. The pandemic triggered other far-reaching disruptions like the global chip shortage.

What to watch: The recent spike in delivery times is unsettling. We'll see if that corrects soon or continues to spill into the inflation data.

  • IHS Markit last updated its suppliers' delivery times index on July 1, and the next update will come on July 23.

Go deeper

Biden pollster's inflation warning

President Biden toured a union training center Wednesday before his CNN town hall in Ohio. Photo: Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images

A top party pollster and senior adviser to the Biden political team is urging Democrats to confront the problem of rising prices — which she says is starting to bite with voters.

Driving the news: Celinda Lake, who polled for the Biden presidential campaign and still advises Team Biden, told Axios that worries about inflation are coming through loud and clear in both public polls and her own focus groups.

Bezos beats Branson in space billionaires' battle for attention

Photo illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios. Photo: Imtiyaz Shaikh (Anadolu Agency), Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Jeff Bezos' flight into space generated more interest from the public than Richard Branson's, and both billionaires overshadowed their respective space companies.

Why it matters: Data shows an outsized public interest in the personalities at the center of the space trips, compared to the companies behind them — which could reinforce public suspicion that the ventures were partly vanity plays.

Updated 5 hours ago - Sports

Swimmer Chase Kalisz first American to win Olympics gold medal

Chase Kalisz of Team United States celebrates after winning the Men's 400m Individual Medley Final on day two of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at Tokyo Aquatics Centre in Tokyo, Japan. Photo: Al Bello/Getty Images

Swimmer Chase Kalisz became on Sunday the first Team USA Olympian to win gold at the Tokyo Games.

The big picture: The Rio 2016 silver medalist's winning time in the men's 400 meters Individual Medley Final was 4 minutes 9.42 seconds. His teammate Jay Litherland took silver .86 seconds later.