Thu March 31, 2011
The Two-Way

Wal-Mart CEO Sees Inflation Ahead; Do You?

"Serious" inflation is going to start hitting consumers in their wallets this summer, Wal-Mart's U.S. CEO tells USA Today.

"We're seeing cost increases starting to come through at a pretty rapid rate," Bill Simon says, and retailers are going to have to pass some of them along. Among the pressure points, obviously: Higher fuel prices, which then push up transportation costs.

Inflation has been pretty much in check since the early '80s. The last time the consumer price index rose in double digits was 1981's 10.3 percent gain. The strongest increase in recent years was 2008's 3.8 percent.

Once "inflation expectations" get into business executives' and consumers' minds, they can become self-fulfilling prophecies as folks buy now in part out of fear that prices will be even higher later — fueling demand and putting more upward pressure on prices.

Of course the still-weak labor market and recent dips in consumer confidence may dampen any such tendencies.

This makes us wonder:

Note: That's just a question, not a scientific survey. We'll keep it open until the end of the day on Friday. Copyright 2011 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.