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July Home Furnishings Prices Dipped, Here’s What that Could Mean

Perhaps easing inflationary fears, retail apparel prices were flat in July in seasonally adjusted monthly comparisons, after rising the previous two months, but were an unadjusted 4.2 percent higher than a year earlier, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported Wednesday in the Consumer Price Index (CPI).

Women’s wear prices were up a seasonally adjusted 0.6 percent in July, with some wide swings by category. Prices fell 2.6 percent for outerwear and 0.3 percent for the underwear, nightwear, swimwear and accessories group, while they were up 5.5 percent in dresses and 0.5 percent for suits and separates.

In men’s, prices rose 1.1 percent, with every sector posting increases. Prices were up 2.9 percent for suits, sport coats and outerwear; 1.4 percent in the underwear, nightwear, swimwear and accessories group; 0.9 percent for shirts and sweaters, and 0.2 percent in pants and shorts.

Boys’ apparel prices rose 1.9 percent in the month and infants’ and toddlers’ clothing cost 0.2 percent more, while prices for girls’ apparel decline 1.1 percent.

Retail footwear prices were down 0.8 percent in July. Boys’ and girls’ footwear fell 3.4 percent and men’s declined 1.2 percent, while women’s rose 1.5 percent.

In home furnishings, retail prices for furniture and bedding dipped 0.6 percent, after increasing the prior two months, suggesting the pandemic frenzy for home goods might be cooling off.

The easing of retail apparel prices could correlate to a similar pattern in raw materials. U.S. spot cotton prices averaged 86.31 cents per pound for the week ended Aug. 5, which was down from 86.50 cents the prior week, but still up from 59.28 cents from a year earlier, according to the Department of Agriculture.

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Lenzing reported a strengthening of global prices last week, noting higher viscose prices due to higher demand for fibers, especially in Asia.

The overall CPI increased 0.5 percent in July on a seasonally adjusted basis after rising 0.9 percent in June, BLS said. Over the past 12 months, the CPI was up an unadjusted 5.4 percent.

The indexes for shelter, food, energy and new vehicles all increased in July. The energy index, important for business operations and logistics, rose 1.6 percent in July, as the gasoline index increased 2.4 percent and other energy component indexes also rose.

The so-called core index, excluding food and energy, was up 0.3 percent in July after increasing 0.9 percent in June, BLS reported.

Over the past 12 months, the overall CPI rose 5.4 percent for the 12 months ending July, the same increase as the period ending June. The core index was up 4.3 percent over the past 12 months, while the energy index rose 23.8 percent.