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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

Oct 15, 2021 - Podcasts

The bad and the good in the latest inflation data

The global energy crisis is causing a whole series of economic headaches, not the least of which is inflation. The Consumer Price Index, the best American measure of inflation, jumped 5.4% in September, compared to last year. That's according to new data out this week.

  • Plus, the fallout of bigotry in the NFL.
  • And, celebrating Latino ingenuity to close Hispanic Heritage Month.

Guests: Axios' Felix Salmon and Kendall Baker, and Telemundo's Marina Franco.

Credits: Axios Today is produced in partnership with Pushkin Industries. The team includes Niala Boodhoo, Sara Kehaulani Goo, Dan Bobkoff, Alexandra Botti, Nuria Marquez Martinez, Sabeena Singhani, Alex Sugiura, Lydia McMullen-Laird, Michael Hanf, and David Toledo. Music is composed by Evan Viola. You can reach us at podcasts@axios.com. You can text questions, comments and story ideas to Niala as a text or voice memo to 202-918-4893.

Go deeper:

This is what a profit margin squeeze looks like

Expand chart
Data: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics; Chart: Jared Whalen/Axios

Two inflation indexes out this week, taken together, show how companies’ margins are getting squeezed.

Why it matters: Corporate earnings growth, while still historically high, is receding from record second-quarter levels. Margins will be a huge focus during Q3 earnings calls this month.

Mike Allen, author of AM
2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

First look: Anita Dunn advises Dems on economy message for '22

Signs from a President Biden event yesterday in Kansas City, Mo. Photo: Chase Castor/Bloomberg via Getty Images

In a midterm preview, top Democratic strategist Anita Dunn advises the party's House and Senate members to frame Republicans "as being against the economic interests of working Americans."

What she's saying: "Explicitly framing Republicans as opposing policies to lower costs does better than simply framing Republicans as the 'party of no,'" Dunn, White House senior adviser until August, writes in the memo.