SLIGHT RISE IN PRICES FOR WOMEN’S APPAREL

Byline: Joanna Ramey

WASHINGTON — Wholesale prices for domestically produced women’s apparel increased 0.1 percent in February against January, which was in line with the 0.1 percent rise in prices for goods produced by all U.S. manufacturers, the Labor Department reported Friday.
Compared to February 2000, wholesale prices for domestically produced women’s apparel continued their long-term downward trend, dropping 1 percent. Producer prices for all U.S. goods increased 4 percent.
The slight monthly increase in wholesale prices overall signals that inflation isn’t creeping into the slowing economy, said Larry Horowitz, senior economist with Primark Decision Economics, based in Boston. A 1.1 percent monthly surge in January producer prices had concerned economists that prices were on the rise.
“There is nothing in the report that showed any kind of inflation in the pipeline for goods,” Horowitz said.
“As a result, whatever the Fed might decide to do to stave off recession, they won’t be worried about inflation.”
The Federal Reserve Bank is scheduled to meet Tuesday and could lower interest rates further in an attempt to stimulate the lackluster economy. The Fed cut interest rates twice in January, at the same time that Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan told Congress that economic growth was flat.
Horowitz said the slowing global economy is keeping U.S. manufacturers’ prices in check in all sectors. However, of benefit to U.S. consumers is that the U.S. dollar remains relatively strong, making imports cheaper, he said.
Meanwhile, all domestically produced apparel prices in February declined 0.1 percent against January and were down 0.3 percent over the 12 months. In women’s, dress prices rose 0.5 percent for the month, but fell 5.2 percent from February 2000. Suit prices were unchanged for the month and increased 1.8 percent over the year, as prices for sweaters, jackets and jerseys increased 0.7 percent in February but dropped 2.2 percent against year-ago levels. Blouse prices were unchanged for the month and fell 2.8 percent over the year.