WASHINGTON — Retail apparel prices rose in December following three months of declines, as overall consumer prices also edged up, the U.S. Labor Department reported Thursday in its Consumer Price Index.Prices on all apparel sold at retail rose a seasonally adjusted 0.9 percent last month. Women’s retail apparel prices increased 2.1 percent, while prices for men’s apparel were up 0.6 percent. Girls’ apparel prices increased 0.9 percent, while boys’ apparel prices fell 0.6 percent.“Although there were reports that there was a lot of discounting done during the holidays to drive traffic, it would seem at least apparel retailers did reserve pricing power,” said Jeet Dutta, senior economist at Moody’s Analytics.Within the women’s category, retail prices for suits and separates gained 4.4 percent in the month, while prices for dresses increased 2.4 percent. Outerwear prices advanced 1.5 percent, while prices for the broad category that includes underwear, nightwear, sportswear and accessories fell 1.2 percent.In men’s wear, prices for the combined category of suits, sport coats and outerwear rose 2.9 percent, as prices for shirts and sweaters gained 0.4 percent. Prices for pants and shorts increased 0.3 percent, while prices for furnishings fell 0.5 percent.The overall CPI rose 0.3 percent in December, after remaining unchanged in November. The core index, which excludes volatile food and energy prices, was up 0.1 percent last month.Chris G. Christopher Jr., director of consumer economics at IHS Global Insight, said higher energy prices drove the top-line consumer inflation number.“The last year is a bland inflation story, and consumers like bland inflation until their next pay raise is equally bland,” Christopher said.
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