By  on October 17, 2008

WASHINGTON — Men’s apparel prices fell 0.4 percent in September, despite fears that inflationary pressures would drive prices up on consumer goods, the U.S. Labor Department said Thursday in its Consumer Price Index.

Price trends have been somewhat unpredictable in recent months. Retail prices for men’s apparel increased 0.9 percent in August but dropped 0.5 percent in July after falling 1 percent in June.

Within the men’s category, suits, sport coats and outerwear prices increased 2.4 percent for the month and 1.3 percent in 12-month comparisons. Men’s furnishings prices rose 1.1 percent in September and 3.2 percent in year-over-year comparisons.

Pants and shirts fell 2.1 percent for the month and advanced 2.5 percent compared to September 2007. Shirts and sweaters declined 1.7 percent in September and 3.1 percent year-to-year.

Apparel prices as a whole dropped 0.1 percent in September and rose 1.4 percent compared to the prior year. Women’s retail apparel prices fell a seasonally adjusted 0.3 percent in September. Compared with September 2007 women’s apparel prices rose 0.3 percent. Boys’ apparel prices dropped 0.8 percent in monthly comparisons and 1.8 percent in 12-month comparisons.

Overall the September price fluctuations were fairly typical, said Jessica Penvose an economist at the U.S. Department of Labor Statistics, although the increases were somewhat less dramatic than previous years.

Inflationary trends appeared to ease for many consumer products in September. Prices for all goods and services were flat for the month, after falling 0.1 percent in August and rising 0.8 percent in July. Prices in September were 4.9 percent higher than the same period last year.

The so-called core prices showed a slight uptick, rising 0.1 percent.

“Consumer price inflation has gone dormant, as the recent abrupt slowdown in world economic growth has led to sharp declines in energy costs, while weak domestic demand is putting downward pressure on retail prices in many key markets,” said Brian Bethune, chief U.S. economist for Global Insight.

The declining inflationary threat will give the Federal Reserve more leeway to continue reducing interest rates to address the impending recession, Bethune said.

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