Beyond gasoline: Prices surge for oil-based goods
Some consumer-products companies are starting to pass on higher energy costs to consumers.
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One day later, Larry Peiros, chief operating officer of Clorox, told securities analysts that the company had already raised prices on a number of brands. It had already announced a 13 percent price increase in May on Pine-Sol cleaner.Skip to next paragraph
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Later in May, Kimberly-Clark, which makes diapers under the brand name Huggies, said it is increasing prices by 6 to 8 percent from mid-July to late August. The company already increased prices by 4 to 7 percent in February.
On the streets of New York, a mother, Rachel, pushes her two children Daisy and Dillon in a tandem stroller. She thinks some of the companies are reducing the number of diapers in each box, even if the price is not rising. "Everything is going up," she moans.
Even if the prices are not up now, some consumers expect them to rise soon. That's the case with Marc and Silke Lugert of Ottawa, as they push 1-year-old Marla in her stroller around Columbus Circle in New York. "In the next six months, prices will rise," says Mr. Lugert as he holds the hand of his other daughter, 4-year-old Paula.
It's not just the grocery shelves being affected by rising energy costs. To find other price hikes, one need look no further than the road.
The price of asphalt, according to contractors, is up about 65 percent so far this year. Another 10 percent price increase is expected in the next two to three weeks.
The paving material is rising in price in large part because liquid asphalt comes directly from crude oil that's been refined. Asphalt is what is left over after the refiners have made gasoline, kerosene, and other products. It is dense and dirty.
The asphalt business has undergone some changes as the price of oil, as well as diesel, has increased. A growing number of refiners are adding special units that can refine this dense oil into diesel and jet fuel. At the same time, refiners are selling more low-grade oil to ocean freight companies, whose business is booming as US exports rise. The end result: more competition for less supply.
"They are talking shortages in Minnesota," says Steve Hall, CEO of Hardrives Inc., a contractor in Minneapolis. The situation has become so uncertain that asphalt suppliers won't quote prices yet for next year.
States are reacting to the higher prices, highway contractors say, by reducing the number of jobs that had been planned. "They are trying to stretch their dollars as much as they can," says Patrick Nelson, special projects manager at Lehman-Roberts Co. in Memphis, Tenn.
Mr. Nelson's company has only one state job to bid on in Tennessee as its Department of Transportation has cut back, he says. If his company bids on the project, he says, it will include an escalation clause to pass on the rising prices.
To stretch dollars, Nelson says, states are resorting to thinner pothole patches and "micro-seals" that wear out faster. "It will catch up with the states," he says.