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Apparel Prices Higher in June

The increase in June apparel prices followed a slight bump in May preceded by three months of declines.

WASHINGTON — Retail apparel prices rose a seasonally adjusted 0.9 percent in June, primarily driven by gains in girls’, men’s and boys’ prices, according to the Consumer Price Index, released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics on Tuesday.

The increase in June apparel prices followed a slight bump in May preceded by three months of declines.

Women’s apparel prices were flat in June. Within the category, dress prices fell 2.6 percent, while prices for outerwear dropped 1 percent. Prices for suits and separates fell 0.9 percent, while combined prices for underwear, nightwear, sportswear and accessories rose 1.9 percent last month.

Men’s apparel prices rose 0.7 percent. In that category, combined prices for suits, sport coats and outerwear rose 1.6 percent, while prices for pants and shorts increased 1.5 percent in June. Prices for furnishings rose 1.4 percent but prices for shirts and sweaters fell 0.7 percent.

Girls’ apparel prices jumped 3.7 percent, while boys’ apparel prices rose 1.6 percent.

“We had an especially volatile stretch of apparel prices a few months ago and the volatility died down a bit in May but in June apparel price spiked up again,” said Jeet Dutta, senior economist at Moody’s Analytics. “There is not any kind of consistent pricing power though. Some categories seem to advance some months, followed by months that seem to give back the gains.”

Dutta said increases in some raw material input prices could be affecting retail apparel prices, but he said retail apparel prices have been fairly weak thus far this year.

“That kind of broad-based strength has been pretty rare this year,” he said. “Just based on the report in June, I cannot conclude at this point that there is some broad inflationary power building. Inflation has been especially subdued this year, so I would expect prices to pick up to some extent in the second half of 2013 and going into 2014 as the overall economic recovery picks up.”

The overall CPI, a key gauge of inflation, rose 0.5 percent in June, after edging up 0.1 percent in May. The core CPI, excluding the volatile food and energy sectors, rose 0.2 percent last month.

“The overall consumer price picture is mostly a gasoline story,” said Chris J. Christopher, director of consumer economics at IHS Global Insight. “If the unrest in Egypt stabilizes, then pump prices are likely to fall back down and offer some relief to consumers. However, if the turmoil in the Middle East starts heating up, consumer prices are likely to stay elevated and consumer confidence is likely to take a hit.”