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Deere to raise prices on higher costs for freight, materials

In this Feb. 23, 2018 photo, a John Deere tractor is on display at the “Spring into Spring” home and garden trade show in Council Bluffs, Iowa. (Nati Harnik / Associated Press)
In this Feb. 23, 2018 photo, a John Deere tractor is on display at the “Spring into Spring” home and garden trade show in Council Bluffs, Iowa. (Nati Harnik / Associated Press)
By Lydia Mulvany Bloomberg

Deere & Co. plans to raise prices as the world’s biggest farm-machinery manufacturer is buffeted by rising costs for freight and raw materials.

Trucking expenses have been climbing in recent months in the U.S. amid a shortage of big-rig drivers, and fuel is becoming more expensive. Walmart said Thursday that increased transportation costs will probably be a headwind for the next few quarters. Also hitting Deere and other manufacturers is the recent increase in prices for steel and aluminum.

“A lot of companies have been having trouble passing through raw-material costs — largely steel – and freight capacity is really, really tight,” Bloomberg Intelligence analyst Karen Ubelhart said.

The issue is “being addressed through a continued focus on structural cost reduction and future pricing actions,” Chief Executive Officer Sam Allen said Friday in the company’s second-quarter earnings statement.

Deere’s shares fluctuated Friday, slumping in the pre-market and then rising in early trading. They climbed 4.1 percent to $152.78 at 10:05 a.m. in New York.

The earnings report was mixed: Deere posted disappointing profit per share, but also raised its forecast for full-year income. Allen said demand for both Deere’s signature green-and-yellow tractors and its construction machinery is increasing globally.

The CEO also said supply-chain bottlenecks, a problem in the preceding quarter, are now easing as Deere works with suppliers to raise production levels.

Still, Ubelhart said the company didn’t say whether it would catch up with rising costs. And with recovering grain prices and declining crop inventories, it was a surprise that it didn’t raise forecasts for agricultural-equipment sales, but lowered them instead, she added. Deere now sees an increase of 14 percent for fiscal 2018, down from 15 percent previously.

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