Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Starbucks Raises Prices and Analysts Cheer

There seems to be little skepticism on Wall Street about Starbucks' recently announced price increase. The company admitted again that higher costs are pinching profits. It is struggling with higher dairy prices, higher fuel prices, and higher energy prices.

But consumers are also dealing with higher prices, leaving them with less and less income to spend on discretionary items like Starbucks coffee. So is the nine cents per cup price increase sufficient to preserve profit margins without depressing volumes? Or is it too much of an increase that will turn away some customers and make them wonder why they are paying so much for coffee? These are the questions Starbucks and analysts are grappling with.

Customers are getting squeezed by higher prices for all kinds of things. Food and energy prices in particular are taking a bite out of their incomes. I doubt even Starbucks believes that customers will finance their coffee purchases with stock market gains or home equity loans. The bottom line is that things don't look promising for Starbucks right now. We'll learn more about the company's financials on August 1. In the meantime, I'm sticking with my recommendation to short the stock.