By  on July 18, 2007

WASHINGTON — Wholesale prices on U.S.-made women's and girls' apparel inched up a seasonally adjusted 0.1 percent in June, compared with May, and increased 1 percent versus a year ago.

Within the women's and girls' category, June wholesale prices on knit shirts and blouses grew 3.9 percent from a year earlier as robe and dressing gown prices advanced 5.6 percent. Underwear dipped 2.8 percent and dresses were down 2 percent.

Since the majority of the apparel bought in the U.S. is made overseas, the fl uctuations in prices of domestically made goods do not broadly affect the fashion industry, but are key to the smaller producers hanging on to U.S. operations.

On the textile front, prices on synthetic fi bers fell 0.9 percent from a year earlier, as yarn prices rose 2.9 percent and fi nished fabrics were up 0.7 percent.

On the broader economic scene, falling energy prices helped drive down the Producer Price Index for all U.S. goods by 0.2 percent, compared with May, the fi rst decline in wholesale prices since January, according to a Labor Department report. Prices rose 0.9 percent in May and 0.7 percent in April.

"The report on June producer prices coupled a widely anticipated fall in gasoline prices with an unexpectedly large drop in food prices to produce a decline in the overall index," said Kenneth Beauchemin, U.S. economist at Global Insight.

"The Fed has little to fret about in today's report," said Beauchemin, referring to the Federal Reserve Board led by chairman Ben Bernanke.

Economists and stock pickers watch price infl ation closely for signs that the economy is growing too quickly, which will prompt the Fed to increase interest rates, or too slowly, which could bring rates back down.

The benchmark federal funds interest rate, which is important in determining how expensive it is to borrow money, has stood at 5.25 percent since June 2006.

The Labor Department releases its Consumer Price Index today, which will give a reading on infl ation for regular shoppers.

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