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Apparel Prices Rise in May

Prices on all apparel sold at retail rose a seasonally adjusted 0.3 percent in May, as an increase in women’s apparel prices offset a decline in men’s.

WASHINGTON — Prices on all apparel sold at retail rose a seasonally adjusted 0.3 percent in May, as an increase in women’s apparel prices offset a decline in men’s, the U.S. Labor Department’s Consumer Price Index showed Tuesday.

Prices for women’s apparel increased 0.5 percent last month, while men’s prices dropped 0.2 percent. There was also pricing strength in girls’ apparel, which rose 0.6 percent, and in boys’ apparel, with a 0.5 percent increase.

“I would categorize apparel as one of the more moderate categories over the past year in terms of overall inflation,” said Jeet Dutta, senior economist at Moody’s Analytics.

In the women’s category, outerwear prices were up 2 percent, while prices for the combined category that includes underwear, nightwear, sportswear and accessories increased 1.8 percent. Dress prices rose 0.7 percent, while prices for suits and separates fell 0.4 percent.

In men’s, prices fell 0.9 percent in shirts and sweaters and 0.4 percent in the group that includes suits, sport coats and outerwear. Prices gained 0.5 percent in pants and shorts, and 0.3 percent in furnishings.

“It does seem like there is some broad-based pricing power as the overall core inflation rose at a fairly strong rate,” Dutta said.

The overall CPI rose 0.4 percent in May, while the core index, which excludes volatile food and energy prices, was up 0.3 percent.

“It suggests that it is consistent with other data in terms of spending and job growth that the economy is rebounding after a slump during the winter,” Dutta added.

However, IHS Global Insight U.S. economist Michael Montgomery said the CPI increase, the highest since February 2013, doesn’t bode well for consumer spending.

“May was not a good month for consumers’ wallets,” Montgomery said. “The energy portion of consumers’ budgets was stretched by higher gasoline and electricity bills. It was no joy to go to the food store, either.”

Food prices rose 0.5 percent and energy prices gained 0.9 percent.

“The twin gains in both food and gasoline are particularly disquieting to consumers as those are the two most-often-seen prices, and therefore the ones which affect moods the most,” he added. “This report will not engender optimism. Food price increases are not going to go away in June, even though they should moderate. Gasoline prices are at risk from turmoil in Iraq, and its timing is inconvenient since pump prices normally start to turn down in late June.”