By  on January 16, 2009

WASHINGTON — Domestic apparel prices resisted a gathering deflationary trend in December.

Apparel prices were flat in December compared with the previous month and increased 0.9 percent compared with the same period last year, the Labor Department said Thursday in its Producer Price Index report.

Prices for women’s and girls’ apparel were up 0.1 percent in month-to-month and year-to-year comparisons. Men’s and boys’ apparel prices were flat from the previous month and increased 1.5 percent from December 2007.

Prices for all goods manufactured in the U.S. fell a seasonally adjusted 1.9 percent in December. The drop came on the heels of a 2.2 percent drop in November and a 2.8 percent decline in October.

“Deflationary pressures continued to intensify [in December], with sharp declines in prices of intermediate and crude goods for the fifth consecutive month,” said Brian Bethune, chief U.S. financial economist at IHS Global Insight. “Those underlying deflationary forces will continue to put downward pressure on producer prices in 2009.”

The PPI is not a true measure of apparel pricing trends, however, since it only tracks goods made in the U.S., which make up less than 10 percent of all clothing sold at retail. The Consumer Price Index, which will be released today, measuring the price of all apparel sold at retail, including imports, is a more accurate barometer of pricing trends.

Wholesale prices for women’s woven shirts and blouses, and tailored jackets and vests were flat in month-to-month comparisons, but increased 3.9 percent and 1 percent, respectively, year-over-year. Knit shirts and blouses declined 0.5 percent from the previous month, while increasing 0.3 percent from December 2007. Prices for jeans and slacks increased 0.1 percent in December, and declined 1 percent from a year earlier. Dresses increased 0.3 percent month-to-month and 2.2 percent year-to-year.

December prices for men’s and boys’ work shirts, knit shirts, woven shirts, suits, and tailored sport coats and vests were all flat compared with November. Tailored sport coats and vests, work shirts, woven shirts and suits increased 5.5 percent, 3.9 percent, 2.8 percent and 4.6 percent, respectively, in year-over-year comparisons. Woven shirt prices increased 0.3 percent from the previous year. Work clothing prices declined 0.1 percent month-to-month, but increased 0.7 in 12-month comparisons.

Producer prices for textile mills, mostly apparel fabric, decreased 1.4 percent compared with the previous month and increased 3.8 percent from a year earlier. December prices for textile product mills, which manufacture home furnishing and industrial fabrics, increased 0.2 percent month-to-month and 3.8 percent year-to-year.

Deeper in the pipeline, costs for synthetic fibers fell 1.3 percent in December from the prior month and dropped 0.6 percent year-over-year. Prices for yarns fell 3.9 percent in monthly comparisons, but increased 2.1 percent from a year earlier. Greige fabrics increased 0.6 percent month-to-month and 3.9 percent in 12-month comparisons. Finished fabric prices decreased 1.1 percent from the previous month and spiked 4.3 percent compared with December 2007.

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