WASHINGTON — Wholesale prices for domestically manufactured women’s and girl’s apparel fell 0.2 percent in May compared with April and were flat versus last year, the Labor Department said Tuesday in its Producer Price Index.

For all apparel, wholesale prices increased 0.1 percent in the month and 0.7 percent from the previous year.

Stoking inflation fears, prices for all U.S.-produced goods went up a seasonally adjusted 1.4 percent in May, after rising 0.2 percent in April and 1.1 percent in March. The core PPI, which excludes food and energy, increased 0.2 percent in May.

Kenneth Beauchemin, U.S. economist with Global Insight, said the questions is, “When, and to what extent, will the massive and ongoing energy price surges embed themselves in core prices, particularly core consumer prices?”

The 1.4 percent boost in all wholesale prices was higher than consensus estimates that placed the increase at 1 percent, Beauchemin noted. The core prices were in line with economists’ expectations.

The PPI does not indicate broader apparel trends, since the vast majority of apparel sold in the U.S. is imported, but price fluctuations are still notable. The Consumer Price Index for May, reported last week, showed women’s retail apparel prices were flat in April compared with the previous month and dropped 4.3 percent versus a year earlier.

In the PPI report, wholesale prices for women’s and girls’ knit shirts and blouses dropped 1 percent for the month and year. Woven shirt and blouse prices increased 0.3 percent from April and 0.8 percent from last year. Wholesale prices of tailored jackets and vests gained 0.1 in the month and the year, and the cost of jeans and slacks increased 0.1 percent from April and 0.2 percent from May 2007.

Dress prices slid 0.1 percent in May, but rose 0.8 percent compared with last year. Women’s suits and pantsuits dropped 1.9 percent for the month and 0.4 percent from a year ago.

Prices for textile mill products, mainly apparel fabrics, were up 0.8 percent in May compared with April and 3.8 percent in the 12 months. Prices in the textile product mill category, primarily industrial and home furnishings fabrics, were flat compared with April and rose 1.5 percent from last year.

This story first appeared in the June 18, 2008 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

Inflationary pressures had a larger impact on goods deeper in the production pipeline. Synthetic fibers were up 0.7 percent in May from the previous month and 1.7 percent from last year. Yarns increased 0.5 percent compared with April and shot up 7.1 percent compared with May 2007. Greige fabric prices increased 0.2 percent from April and 2.3 percent from a year earlier. Finished fabric prices were up 1.3 percent from April and 3.4 percent year-to-year.

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