Around the world, economists are asking whether firms' excess profits have been fuelling inflation.
Firms in some sectors will use the expectation of rising prices to fatten profit margins, taking home bumper profits - literally profiting off the economy's inflation-fuelled malaise.
These firms are not raising prices because their costs have increased, or because they need to - they are increasing prices simply because they want to pocket more profit, and inflation gives them a good excuse to do just that.
Countries like the United Kingdom and Spain have rolled out windfall profit taxes of various kinds to penalise companies.
In the UK, energy companies will pay an additional 25 per cent tax for the next 12 months on their "windfall" profits, netting £5 billion or NZ$9.6b.
Looking to New Zealand, some sectors have been booking quite extraordinary profits - literally hundreds of millions of dollars more than they did last year. But the picture is messy, with other sectors struggling as New Zealand emerges into the "new normal".
New Zealand's biggest bank, ANZ, for example, booked a record interim profit after tax of $1.096b for the six months to March - up a cool $166m or 18 per cent. Most of the big four Australian-owned banks have reported a similar return on assets, equity and net interest margins in March this year to the same time last year, according to Reserve Bank data.
In the crucial energy sector, data collected by MBIE shows the importer margins for fuel increasing. Energy and Resources Minister Megan Woods wrote to importers on Friday, venting about a "sharp increase" in importer margins recorded during the week ending Friday, July 8.
"Compared to the previous week importer margins increased by 43.5 per cent or regular petrol, 32.4 per cent for diesel and 30.9 per cent for premium petrol," Woods wrote to the companies.
Business Financial Data from Stats NZ shows the level of profit booked by other sectors in the economy in the period to March this year. It shows that some sectors have indeed booked quite exceptional increases in profits.
Food, beverage, and tobacco product manufacturing saw an enormous increase in profitability over the last twelve months, with profits increasing 86.2 per cent on last March.
In the March quarter last year, firms in this sector posted quarterly profits of $741m - this March, those profits had risen to $1,38b (still lower than the $1.7b profit these companies posted in March 2020).
Likewise, profits in the wholesale trade sector - businesses that sell wholesale goods to retailers who onsell them to consumers - are up 22.5 per cent on the March quarter last year, netting profits worth more than half a billion dollars more than March last year.
In the March 2021 quarter, wholesale trade profits were worth $2.27b, in March 2021 they were $2.7b.
Another very profitable sector was professional, scientific and technical services. Profits in the March quarter 2022 were up 18.5 per cent on last year, with firms posting profits of $2.5b, up on $2.1b on the last March quarter.
While some sectors are doing particularly well, others are not. Profits in accommodation and food services - very exposed to tourism - are down by more than 50 per cent on last year. Transport is also down.
CTU economist Craig Renney said the data is not a "smoking gun" proving massive excessive profits due to inflation.
"The data that we have to date lags the real economy, so its too early to tell conclusively that profits are driving inflation at this point – it's not a smoking gun.
But there are sectors that appear to be doing really well despite Covid and related global challenges. We know that Banks made profits of $1.75b in the March quarter of 2022 – around $20m a day. Fletcher Residential profits doubled last year. The country's four biggest electricity companies increased their combined profits by nearly 60 per cent in the second half of last year.
According to the Commerce Commission, supermarkets made more than $1m a day in excess profits – profits above those which they would have made if they were based overseas," Renney said.
But he said added that what data we do have, combined with what can be seen overseas, "warrant a serious look at how profits are interacting with inflation".
"Corporate profits in total are up 39 per cent this year alone according to the Treasury. We should be making sure that are using all of the tools available to make sure that New Zealanders are getting a good deal. This should include examining whether or not the Competition Commission has sufficient powers to make sure consumers are not paying more than they need to," he said.
The Greens want firms on notice.
Finance spokeswoman Chlöe Swarbrick said a windfall tax was one tool that could be used to do "something", but said the party preferred more permanent solutions.
"As hundreds of thousands of families struggle to put food on the table and keep their home warm, large corporations, not least oil and gas, building materials and supermarkets dubiously raise their prices and their profits," Swarbrick said.
"Introducing a windfall tax on these profits would be one way of being seen to do "something," but such taxes are, by definition, temporary. New Zealanders deserve a tax system that is consistent, easy to administer, and guarantees everyone pays their fair share. This would ensure that year-after-year we are raising the revenue we need for spending in health, education and welfare - the systems successive governments have chosen to instead underfund - as well as on infrastructure necessary to deal with the climate emergency," she said.
National's finance spokeswoman Nicola Willis was not so keen, saying her party did "not support a new super tax on business"
"The data shows there is significant volatility and variability in profits across and within different sectors of the economy. While some businesses in any one sector may be doing OK at any one time, a huge number of businesses are struggling to keep up with rising costs and staff shortages. In fact, the economy as a whole shrunk in the first three months of this year," Willis said.
She said businesses were facing "volatile and unpredictable cost increases and are under pressure from rising interest rates".
"Many businesses are struggling to find staff, putting pressure on all workers who are having to fill in the gaps. Others are worried that dropping consumer confidence means there are harder times ahead. The only real winner from inflation is the Government, which is collecting more tax as a result," she said.
Act finance spokesman David Seymour said an excess profits tax would not work.
"For an excess profit tax to work, the state needs to know what is a reasonable return to the risk taker. If it overshoots and discourages risk taking then we end up with less investment," Seymour said, adding that if the tax undershot it would, by definition, not work.
Seymour said "a profit is a signal for people to move resources into that area - there's clearly money to be made".