By  on July 16, 2010

WASHINGTON — Retail apparel prices rose a seasonally adjusted 0.8 percent in June compared with May, but fell 0.4 percent from a year ago, the Labor Department said Friday in its Consumer Price Index.

Women’s apparel prices were flat and declined 1.2 percent year-over-year. Men’s apparel prices rose 2.2 percent and advanced 0.8 percent in 12-month comparisons.

The overall CPI declined 0.1 percent in June, but increased 1.1 percent year-to-year. The so-called core index, which excludes the volatile food and energy sectors, rose 0.2 percent month-to-month, the biggest increase since October. The core CPI advanced 0.9 percent compared with a year earlier.

Apparel prices were the main driver of the core index increase, said Nigel Gault, chief U.S. economist at IHS Global Insight.

“That hike [in apparel prices] probably reflects a mild variation in seasonal patterns, not an underlying pick-up in inflation,” Gault said. “With the economy slowing and commodity prices falling, the main risk on the price front remains that inflation will be too low, not too high.”

Prices for women’s outerwear dropped 2.8 percent in monthly comparisons and fell 7.9 percent compared with June 2009. Dress prices rose 0.5 percent, but declined 9.7 percent year-over-year. Women’s suits and separates prices were down 1.1 percent and dropped 0.5 percent in 12-month comparisons. The broad women’s underwear, nightwear, sportswear and accessories category saw the only price increases for women’s apparel in June, rising 3.1 percent, and advancing 3 percent compared with a year earlier.

The cost of men’s suits, sport coats and outerwear rose 3.1 percent and advanced 5.4 percent year-to-year. Men’s furnishings prices were up 2 percent and increased 1.5 percent year-to-year. Prices for men’s shirts and sweaters increased 1.8 percent, but fell 0.5 percent compared with a year earlier. Men’s pants and shorts prices gained 1.4 percent, but declined 1.6 percent year-over-year.

Boys’ apparel prices advanced 2.7 percent and dropped 4.8 percent versus a year ago. Girls’ apparel prices rose 1.6 percent, and fell 3.7 percent from June 2009.

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