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Women’s Wholesale Prices Dip but PPI Spurs Inflation Concerns

Wholesale prices for U.S.-made women's and girls' apparel fell a seasonally adjusted 0.1 percent in January, compared with December, and declined 0.3...

WASHINGTON — Wholesale prices for U.S.-made women’s and girls’ apparel fell a seasonally adjusted 0.1 percent in January, compared with December, and declined 0.3 percent from a year ago.

However, wholesale prices for all U.S.-made apparel, including men’s, boy’s and infants’, rose 0.1 percent for the month and 0.4 percent from January 2007, while prices on all domestically made goods jumped 1 percent last month, the Labor Department reported Tuesday in the Producer Price Index.

The overall increase in the PPI was driven by higher energy and food costs. The core index, which excludes the volatile food and energy sectors, was up 0.4 percent, following a 0.2 percent rise in December.

The broader increases reflected a deepening inflationary pattern underscored by last week’s Consumer Price Index on prices for goods and services, which rose 0.4 percent in January. In the CPI, retail prices for women’s apparel rose a seasonally adjusted 0.6 percent in January, following a 0.5 percent rise in December and a 0.6 percent bump in November. The CPI is a truer gauge of apparel prices, since more than 90 percent of clothing sold at retail is imported.

"Months of surging energy prices appear now to be trickling up the production chain to finished goods prices," Kenneth Beauchemin, U.S. economist for Global Insight, wrote in an analysis.

In light of the downturn in the housing market, subprime mortgage crisis and credit crunch on Wall Street, the Federal Reserve Board has placed an emphasis on the slowdown in the economy rather than inflation in setting interest rate policy.

But Beauchemin said the accelerating inflation in several indices could force the Fed to "refocus on the price-stability mandate" ahead of its March meeting.

"Losing a grip on inflation expectations would prove costly at this juncture," Beauchemin warned.

Within the women’s and girls’ category, wholesale prices on knit shirts and blouses held steady in January, but increased 0.3 percent from a year ago, while prices on skirts rose 0.7 percent for the month and 0.7 versus a year ago. Wholesale prices on tailored jackets and vests increased 0.1 percent for the month and 0.2 percent compared with January 2007.


In the textile industry, prices for domestically made textile mill products rose 0.7 percent in January and increased 3.2 percent year over year, while prices for textile product mills fell 0.4 percent in January but increased 0.7 percent from January 2007.

Prices on synthetic fibers fell 0.9 percent last month but rose 0.9 percent against a year ago, as prices on yarn rose 1.5 percent for the month and 5.1 percent versus January 2007. Greige fabric prices increased 0.7 percent last month and 2.8 percent against a year ago, while prices on finished fabrics rose 0.9 percent in January and 2.3 percent against a year ago.