JUNE WHOLESALE PRICES DECLINE 0.2%

Byline: Joanna Ramey

WASHINGTON — Wholesale prices for U.S.-made women’s apparel dipped 0.2 percent in June, countering the 0.2 percent gain in May, the Labor Department reported Friday in its monthly Producer Price Index.
Compared to June 1999, prices last month were down 0.6 percent.
The lack of headway in domestic wholesale women’s apparel prices this year continues to reflect the fierce competition in the market from imports, said economist Carl Priestland.
“Overall prices, in general, also aren’t going up much,” he said. “We have 3 percent inflation as it is.”
All apparel producer prices in June were off 0.1 percent and, compared to year-ago levels, they were unchanged.
Wholesale prices for girls’, children’s and infants’ apparel increased 1.2 percent for the month and were up 2 percent over the year. Prices for men’s and boys’ apparel at the producer level fell 0.4 percent in June and were unchanged from year-ago levels. The apparel numbers are quoted on an unadjusted basis.
In the overall economy, wholesale prices for all finished goods jumped 0.6 percent in June, propelled largely by increases in gasoline and energy costs. When the volatile energy and food indexes are removed, producer prices actually fell 0.1 percent.
Wholesale prices for domestically produced textiles edged up 0.1 percent for the month and were unchanged from June 1999. These numbers are relatively good news for the industry, which in 1999 and 1998 saw prices plummet as the result of less costly Asian imports flooding the market after the region’s economic crisis. In 1999, U.S. textile prices fell 1.3 percent against 1998.
“Things are starting to stabilize, which is encouraging,” said Dave Link, chief economist for American Textile Manufacturers Institute.
Link said import pressures remain in certain categories, however. For example, he cited a 56 percent increase in carded cotton yarn imports this year with prices down 6 percent. Knit fabric imports are up 4 percent with prices 7 percent lower.
Meanwhile, women’s apparel categories with notable price fluctuations in June included sweaters, jackets and jerseys, which were unchanged for the month and increased 9.8 percent over the year. Dress prices at the wholesale level dipped 0.5 percent for the month and were off 3.3 percent for year.
Suit prices were unchanged for the month and declined 5.1 percent since June 1999. Prices for jeans were also unchanged in June, but fell 2.4 percent during the 12 months.

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