By Chris Matthews
President Joe Biden convened a roundtable meeting Monday with a group of major retailers and consumer product manufacturers to discuss rising prices for everyday products and supply chain problems that have resulted from the COVID-19 pandemic.
The meeting was held virtually and in person and was attended by Best Buy Co. Inc. /zigman2/quotes/205918291/composite BBY +3.92% CEO Corie Barry, Samsung /zigman2/quotes/209800866/delayed KR:005930 +1.27% CEO KS Choi, Walmart Inc. /zigman2/quotes/207374728/composite WMT +1.22% CEO Doug McMillon, CVS Health Corp. /zigman2/quotes/209664499/composite CVS -0.52% chief Karen Lynch, as well as the top executives at Kroger Co. /zigman2/quotes/206215053/composite KR +0.63% , Mattel Inc. /zigman2/quotes/209819189/composite MAT +3.20% , Qurate Retail Inc. /zigman2/quotes/207450427/composite QRTEA +12.00% , Todos Supermarket and Food Lion.
Walmart’s McMillon was optimistic that supply-chain problems, which have helped fuel rising prices in the U.S., are easing.
“The port issue has been a big issue but we’ve really seen a lot of improvement,” he said. “We’ve seen an increase in throughput over the last four weeks, about 26% nationally in terms of getting containers through ports.” McMillon pointed to efforts by the Biden administration to ease congestion at America’s busiests ports as one reason for the recent improvement.
To be sure, supply-chain constraints and rising prices remain at top of mind for major U.S. companies and consumers. Though throughput at major American ports is improving, there remain historically long wait times to offload containers and a record number of S&P 500 /zigman2/quotes/210599714/realtime SPX +1.44% companies are mentioning the terms “supply chain” and “inflation” on analysts calls, according to FactSet.
Meanwhile, consumer inflation expectations are at a more than ten-year high, and concerns about rising prices are leading them to extreme pessimism on the strength of the U.S. economy, according to a recent University of Michigan survey .
President Biden was expected to deliver remarks on the U.S. economy following the meeting, but has rescheduled that speech for Wednesday, Dec. 1.