WASHINGTON — November wholesale prices for U.S.-made women’s and girls’ apparel remained steady in November, even as the prices on all domestic goods shot up a seasonally adjusted 3.2 percent because of higher gasoline prices, the largest jump in 34 years.
This story first appeared in the December 14, 2007 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
Energy prices increased 14.1 percent during the month compared with October, according to the Labor Department Producer Price Index released Thursday. The so-called core rate of inflation, which excludes the volatile food and energy sectors, advanced 0.4 percent, the biggest boost since February.
The government will offer a broader reading on inflation today with the Consumer Price Index report.
Since Americans rely on foreign-made goods more than ever, the jump in producer prices is not expected to translate directly or immediately to consumer prices. But the higher gasoline prices will affect both measures of inflation.
Price increases have forced the Federal Reserve Board, led by chairman Ben Bernanke, to walk a tightrope: controlling inflation while lowering interest rates to boost a slowing economy and avoid a recession. The Fed on Tuesday lowered its benchmark federal funds interest rate for the third time in as many months to 4.25 percent.
The dramatic jump in producer prices highlights inflation concerns, even if prices outside of food and energy are growing more slowly.
“It’s definitely not good,” said Aaron Smith, senior economist at Moody’s Economy.com. “It’s going to put more emphasis on inflation expectations now. I don’t think inflation per se is a big risk right now and that’s simply because the economy is just too weak. Businesses are not going to have pricing power.”
Since more than 90 percent of the apparel sold in the U.S. is made abroad, price fluctuations among domestic producers affect a small segment of the overall market.
Compared with a year earlier, prices on women’s and girls’ apparel grew 0.9 percent in November, with increases of 8.1 percent in robes and dressing gowns, 1.8 percent in knit shirts, 0.8 percent in underwear and 0.5 percent in woven shirts.
Prices also rose in the textile arena, with year-over-year increases of 0.1 percent for synthetic fibers, 3.5 percent for yarns, 1.6 percent for greige fabrics and 0.7 percent for finished fabrics.