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Supply-chain woes as cargo ships wait at sea, while investors search for calm waters

·2 min read

Investors will be listening to corporate financial results as the markets keep an eye on the waters off the coast of Southern California in the week ahead.

The big boats lined up for miles offshore are eventually destined for the ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles and will make an impact on the bottom line of lots of companies. The backlog of international cargo vessels is one pinch point in the global supply chain connecting American consumers with all kinds of products. The pandemic-induced supply chain problems are blamed for fueling inflation. Sorting out the kinks in the chain will help alleviate those pricing pressures.

The market has generally accepted the Federal Reserve’s take that this higher inflation will be transitory. Lately, the central bank has moderated its outlook, expecting these inflationary pressures to stick around a little longer than anticipated just a few months ago. Investors will want to see tangible evidence significantly higher price trends will be easing.

And they can look at the shipping channels leading into the two Southern California ports. Last week, President Joe Biden announced Los Angeles port workers agreed to work around the clock to help move the containers faster, with the goal of unclogging a key entry point for Asian-made goods into the U.S. Exactly what 24/7 operations mean at the port remained under discussion even as the president made his announcement.

But moving ships stacked high with goods floating on the Pacific is only one link in the strained supply chain. And investors know this. There are truck drivers and railroad crews, warehouse workers and folks restocking shelves who also represent key positions. Lining up vessels from bow to stern, getting the gantry cranes going around the clock, moving cargo from dockside to container yards day and night will help, but won’t solve the inflation.

Companies like Procter & Gamble, Mattel and Crocs are among those reporting their quarter financial results this week. Each relies on products sent across the Pacific Ocean for their businesses. How they are planning for prices will be clear signs of rough waters or clear sailing.

Tom Hudson hosts “The Sunshine Economy” on WLRN-FM, where he is the vice president of news. Twitter: @HudsonsView

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