By  on October 18, 2011

WASHINGTON — The volatility in cotton prices this year continued to put upward pressure on U.S.-made apparel prices in September.

Prices on domestically produced apparel rose 0.7 percent in September compared with August and were up 4.6 percent over September 2010, the U.S. Labor Department’s Producer Price Index showed Tuesday. Men’s apparel prices rose 2.7 percent in September compared with August and were up 8.7 percent against a year earlier. Prices on U.S.-made women’s apparel fell 0.4 percent last month but were still up 1.4 percent from a year earlier.

In men’s, prices on trousers were up 6.8 percent in September and 15.9 percent year-to-year, while prices on work shirts rose 6.4 percent last month and were up 10.1 percent from September 2010.

In women’s, wholesale prices for woven shirts and blouses fell 6.2 percent for the month and 4.6 percent for the year. Prices on knit shirts and blouses fell 0.3 percent last month, but were 7.3 percent higher than September 2010. Prices of tailored jackets and vests rose 1.3 percent in September and were 7 percent higher than a year earlier.

“There was a marked contrast between men’s and women’s prices, which suggests producers have found it easier to pass cost increases through on men’s and boys’ apparel rather than on women’s,” said Nigel Gault, chief U.S. economist at IHS Global Insight.

Cotton prices have dropped from historic highs of more than $2 a pound in March to around $1 a pound, but finished goods being sold now still reflect the high raw material surges.

The PPI for apparel is not considered a key price indicator, since a vast majority of goods are imported. The Consumer Price Index, released today, is a more important gauge, since it includes all goods sold at retail.

Further down the pipeline, prices on U.S.-made finished fabrics fell 1.2 percent last month but were 8.1 percent higher than a year earlier, while prices on yarns edged up 0.1 percent in September and were 22.9 percent above September 2010. Prices on U.S.-made gray fabrics rose 0.3 percent in September and were 16.9 percent above September 2010.

In the overall economy, wholesale prices rose 0.8 percent in September, driven largely by high gas costs. The core PPI index, excluding volatile food and energy costs, rose 0.2 percent last month.

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