By  on February 20, 2009

WASHINGTON — Deflationary pressures remain a growing concern even though the U.S. Labor Department on Thursday reported that wholesale prices overall rose last month, including prices for domestically manufactured apparel, which increased 0.2 percent in January and were up 1.1 percent from a year earlier.

Prices for women’s and girls’ apparel were up 0.2 percent from the previous month and 0.5 percent year-over-year, according to the Producer Price Index. Men’s and boys’ domestic apparel prices increased 0.6 percent in January and 2.1 percent from a year earlier.

Prices for all goods manufactured in the U.S. climbed 0.8 percent in January, reversing declining numbers from the two previous months. Prices for domestic goods fell 1.9 percent in December and 2.5 percent in November. Most of the increase in January was driven by a rise in energy prices, which had fallen precipitously in previous months.

Despite the rebound in overall prices, economists said deflation was still the biggest concern.

“Further declines in intermediate and crude goods prices suggest that pipeline deflationary pressures are still intact,” said Brian Bethune, chief U.S. financial economist at IHS Global Insight.

In apparel, the PPI is not a true indicator of price fluctuations, since only a small percentage of goods are made in the U.S., but can reveal some trends. The Consumer Price Index, which will be released today, is a stronger measure because it includes imports.

Wholesale prices for women’s and girls’ knit shirts and blouses increased 0.4 percent in January and rose 2.8 percent year-over-year. Producer prices for woven shirts and blouses were flat for the month but were up 3.7 percent from a year earlier. Dresses increased 0.7 percent month-to-month and rose 2.3 percent from January 2008. Women’s tailored jacket and vest prices dropped 0.2 percent for the month but rose 0.8 percent year-over-year. Wholesale prices for jeans and slacks fell 0.1 percent in January and declined 1.2 percent from a year earlier.

Producer prices for men’s work shirts increased 0.6 percent in January and spiked 4.5 percent from a year earlier. Work clothing prices climbed 1 percent month-to-month and increased 1.6 percent year-to-year.

January prices for apparel fabric increased 0.4 percent and rose 3.5 percent from a year earlier. At textile mills that manufacture home furnishing and industrial fabrics, prices increased 0.3 percent for the month and 4.1 percent year-over-year.

Domestic costs deeper in the pipeline also increased in January. Prices for synthetic fibers rose 0.8 percent for the month and were up 1.1 percent from January 2008. Greige fabric prices increased 2.1 percent in January and spiked 5.5 percent year-to-year. Finished fabric costs rose 1 percent for the month and climbed 4.4 percent in 12-month comparisons. Yarn prices declined 0.3 percent in January but rose 0.7 percent from a year earlier.

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