I went to the supermarket the other day and got a real shock. The price of sliced bread has gone from around 95 cents to 1.85 in less than a month. I don't eat the stuff, but my daughter makes sandwiches and toasties often, so it's a price I follow - if only subconsciously. Even as wheat and energy prices soared in Spring and Summer, suppliers apparently worked through their cheap pre-existing raw material stocks and then raised prices all in one go.
Then two days ago I walked into my neighborhood baker (the Bread Connection is purely coincidental); the lady who owns it is a really sharp cookie (har, har), very much in tune with the economy. I told her about my sliced bread experience and she countered with yeast: her supplier raised prices 45% in just one day!
The sharp rise in those two examples got me thinking... why this Sudden Inflation? This is my explanation:
Prices for raw materials like commodities and energy may spike fast, but such prices are slow to ultimately feed through to the final consumer items. It's like a subsea earthquake, the tsunami does not reach the shore until later.
We are now experiencing a shockwave of delayed, "slow" inflation that is hitting the final retail consumer. Judging from recent behavior, Mr. and Mrs. Public had largely ignored the warning signs and kept on spending, lulled into complacency by prices that were still low.
How are consumers going to react? I think they will cut back their spending correspondingly fast, since their income is not rising nearly as rapidly. And since consumer spending makes up the vast majority of the economy, I fully expect a recession to arrive any day now...