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Wholesale Apparel Prices Inch Up 0.2 Percent

The Labor Department reported Friday an increase in November apparel prices.

WASHINGTON — Wholesale prices for domestically made apparel increased 0.2 percent in November from the previous month, and rose 0.9 percent year-over-year, the Labor Department said Friday in its Producer Price Index.

Prices for women’s and girls’ apparel rose 0.2 percent last month, and were flat compared with last year. Men’s and boys’ domestic apparel prices increased 0.1 percent from the previous month and 1.6 percent from November 2007.

Prices for all goods manufactured in the U.S. fell 2.2 percent in November, the second consecutive month of falling numbers. The decline was driven primarily by lower energy prices.

Along with energy, the overall domestic price index has declined, a trend that is expected to work its way through the pipeline to other goods if fuel and commodity costs continue to go down, said Patrick Newport, U.S. economist for Global Insight.

There is concern that falling prices could fuel a deflationary cycle. 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.

“Although deflationary prices outside the energy sector did not appear to be widespread in November, the evidence is that those pressures are worsening rapidly further down the pipeline and could be felt in coming months if supplies continue to outstrip demand,” said Charles McMillion, president and chief economist, MBG Information Services.

Producer prices for women’s knit shirts and blouses increased 1 percent from October and 0.8 percent in 12-month comparisons. Women’s woven shirts and blouses rose 0.2 percent from the previous month, and were up 3.9 percent compared with a year earlier. Dresses increased 0.4 percent in November, and were up 1.9 percent compared with November 2007.

Wholesale prices for men’s and boys’ work shirts, work clothing and knit shirts were flat in November. In yearly comparisons, costs increased 3.9, 0.8 and 0.3 percent, respectively.

Woven shirts and suits both rose 0.4 percent compared with the previous month, and were up 2.4 and 4.6 percent, respectively, in 12-month comparisons. Tailored sport coats and vests increased 1.1 percent, and rose 6.6 percent year-over-year.

November prices for textile mill products, mostly apparel fabric, increased 0.1 percent from October and spiked 5.4 percent from the previous year. Prices for home furnishing and industrial fabrics, also called textile product mills, increased 0.1 percent and were up 3.6 percent year-over-year.

Deeper in the pipeline domestic costs for synthetic fibers dropped 1.5 percent from the previous month, but increased 0.9 percent year-over-year. Yarn prices dropped 0.9 percent, but spiked 6.5 percent from November 2007. Greige fabrics climbed 0.1 percent, and increased 3.1 percent from a year earlier. Prices for finished fabrics were up 0.2 percent in month-to-month comparisons, and increased 5.7 percent in the year.