I do buy the economic definition of "general increase in prices," but I think that is scapegoating the question of, "is this part of a general picture?"
If you are a retail customer buying shipping containers, yes, although I suspect that isn't commonly purchased and so I'd not expect it to be in the basket CPI holds. Shipping costs of containers OTOH would be a no, shipping costs are not an end product.
Longer winded rant:
I have a few ways of responding to you, one will seem flip, but I hope you don't take them that way. My grandmother purchased her house in 1973 I believe. She paid something like 30k for it and now it's worth 250k. Last year you might have said it was worth 200k, if Zillow is to be believed. That difference is between 4% and 4.5%. Recall there were several periods in the 70s with 10% inflation. In the longer run, .5% does matter some due to compounding, but it really isn't the thing to worry about if your assets are growing with it. Let's say we see 10% CPI inflation for a year, an unlikely event, but within the realm of possibility. In such a case, if it lasted a year, it would be a small change and would be nearly forgotten in history books. Furthermore, what if it acts just like oil did last year. I paid about $1.5 a gallon at one point last year. The price then went back to the long term average. Right now it's near 2019 levels, give or take some spare change in the sofa. Basically 0 inflation. What if we get a spike in prices and then go back to the long term average? Those who don't spend will be better off, but in general it will just be a short term blip if that happens. I'm not saying take this view on faith, but what I'd look for is follow through... If we start seeing 4, 5, 6 dollar average gas at any point in the next 24 months, I'd be getting nervous. This is a metric I do keep an eye on.
Let's take housing as an interesting example I've spent some time trying to understand.
(Edit: Former meme on someone with lumber being a millionaire here)
The funny thing is, lumber is going down and construction is seeing at least some casualties
in what should be the best boom ever. Even if lumber went back to normal pricing, I'd not call that deflation other than in the sense a consumer buys the wood. I'd not call it inflation that wood costs more, but I do think housing prices are inflation. The question is, why are housing costs going up, as that will help answer if this is a long term issue. There is decent evidence that speculators are buying up homes as are the wealthy (second home purchases are way up). Low priced homes are the ones selling the slowest. Rents are not rising to meet the cost of housing, although rents are rising. There are no clear bank loans per broad data available to explain the purchasing of homes and the gov't money printed is not enough to explain the cash offers going on. So one of two things is happening. Either this is speculative mania of the cash rich or housing supply isn't there.
On the supply side argument, elderly own most of the houses and maybe they are scared to sell. We know that the rent/mortgage moratorium will be rolling off soon and given this claim by Fannie: "Financial situation will be better in the next 12 months... now 44% vs 51% in Apr 2019" it seems more supply will be coming. Fannie's
data suggests a 12x increase in "bad time to sell" compared to April of 2019 (26% now, 2% then). Add in all those without jobs who can't get bank loans (no NINJA loans anymore) and it seems likely those who have a house aren't going to put their home on the market now.
Of course it doesn't need to be either-or... it can be both. So my point is that we've got a lot of unnatural elements going on in the market. I admit that your story sounds like inflation of some sort. What I don't know is if there are factors causing it (e.g. less flights means less packages shipped) that will undo over time or if this is actually a monetary phenomenon (printers go brrr). The other question is, will buyers "take" the new prices. If you raise the price of your house by 2x and say "Fed made me do it by printing 2x the money" but no one buys your house then you know buyers didn't accept the prices. If they do accept the prices, but have no additional wages, doesn't that imply that other consumption will go down? So the real question I have is, will wages really go substantially up to justify prices? Will any of the other major inflation risks I know of show up and how long will they last?
I believe the inflation risks are:
Short term (24 months):
- Supply chains being emptied or off line.
- China buying everything up during the pandemic. (https://www.cnbc.com/2021/06/07/chinas- ... -data.html
- Significant war
- Party time with gov't money.- Workers refuse to go back to work for a variety of reasons.
- Banks might finally use the brrr to create credit (not true thus far)
- The Brrr might actually become money printing.
- Rich might "diversify" into owning commodities and keeping them in storage--making them more scarce.
- China cuts off trade with the US.
- Infrastructure "rot" due to the pandemic now must be replaced.
Mid term (2-10 years) & Long term (30 years):
- Wages up and they stick
- Chinese asset run (buy up homes in London, Vancouver, etc.)
- Elderly eating up productive people's time, due to requirements to be cared for.
- Lack of oil as we divest from it.
- Lack of precious metals (and other commodities) as we didn't invest in the last couple of decades... and it takes decades to get these things going.
- China's population is getting elderly. Where will the capitalist geese go for their cheap workers?
- China cuts off trade with the US.
- Significant war.
- Not enough skilled workers to solve problems (e.g. trades).
Those in the short term bucket I believe are the ones you're noting, but I suspect it will snap back to 2019 levels, give or take 15% by 2023. Could I be wrong? Absolutely. Thus far inflation has gone farther than I would have imagined, particularly in housing. Am I hedged against inflation. Yes. How much. I don't like discussing that level of detail as I think it biases me too much; it might get me to become attached to my positions.
If my ramble still is missing something you're after me covering, just ask. It's late and I know I'm rambling.