Companies Push Prices Higher, Protecting Profits but Adding to Inflation

The bags of Doritos, cartons of Tropicana orange juice and bottles of Gatorade sold by PepsiCo are now substantially pricier. Customers have grumbled, but they have largely kept buying. Shareholders have cheered. PepsiCo declined to comment.

Other companies that sell consumer goods have also done well while continuing to raise prices.

The average company in the S&P 500 stock index increased its net profit margin from the end of last year, according to FactSet, a data and research firm, countering the expectations of Wall Street analysts that profit margins would decline slightly. And while margins are below their peak in 2021, analysts forecast that they will keep expanding in the second half of the year.

For much of the past two years, most companies “had a perfectly good excuse to go ahead and raise prices,” said Samuel Rines, an economist and the managing director of Corbu, a research firm that serves hedge funds and other investors. “Everybody knew that the war in Ukraine was inflationary, that grain prices were going up, blah, blah, blah. And they just took advantage of that.”

But those go-to rationales for elevating prices, he added, are now receding.

The Producer Price Index, which measures the prices that businesses pay for goods and services before they are sold to consumers, reached a high of 11.7 percent last spring. That rate plunged to 2.3 percent for the 12 months through April.

The Consumer Price Index, which tracks the prices of household expenditures on everything from eggs to rent, has also been falling, but at a much slower rate. In April, it dropped to 4.93 percent, from a high of 9.06 percent in June 2022. The price of carbonated drinks rose nearly 12 percent in April from 12 months earlier.

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