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Retail Apparel Prices Fall Again in October, as Overall CPI Flat

Indicating early holiday promotions coupled with wavering consumer demand, retail apparel prices fell a seasonally adjusted 1.2 percent in October following a 0.5 percent decrease in September, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported Thursday in its Consumer Price Index (CPI).

The decline was across the board in the apparel sector. Men’s wear prices declined 3.5 percent in October, led by a 6.3 percent decrease in suits, nightwear and outerwear. The underwear, nightwear, swimwear and accessories group saw prices fall 2.5 percent, as shirts and sweaters dipped 2.9 percent, and pants and shorts declined 1.3 percent.

Prices for women’s apparel were down 0.4 percent for the month, pushed by a 1 percent decline in the underwear, nightwear, swimwear and accessories group, and a 0.5 percent drop in suits and separates. These declines were balanced out somewhat by increases of 1.4 percent in outerwear and 0.7 percent in dresses.

Girl’s apparel prices fell 3.6 percent in the month and boys’ declined 1.1 percent, while infants’ and toddlers’ clothes cost 3.4 percent less last month.

Apparel prices have been helped by stable-to-down fiber prices. U.S. spot cotton prices averaged 65.02 cents per pound for the week ended Nov. 5, down from 66.19 cents per pound the previous week, but up from 61.09 cents a year earlier. The BLS Producer Price Index for synthetic fibers was down 0.7 percent in September compared to August and was 0.45 percent below year-earlier levels.

The overall CPI was unchanged in October on a seasonally adjusted basis after rising 0.2 percent in September, BLS reported. Over the last 12 months, the CPI increased an unadjusted 1.2 percent.

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Component indexes were mixed. The food index rose 0.2 percent, with the food away from home index increasing 0.3 percent and a smaller 0.1 percent rise in the food at home index. The energy index, important for business operations, rose 0.1 percent in October as the index for electricity increased 1.2 percent.

The core index, excluding food and energy, was also flat in October following an increase of 0.2 percent in September. The index for shelter increased 0.1 percent in October, which was offset by a 0.4 percent decrease in the index for medical care. The indexes for airline fares, recreation and new vehicles were among those to rise, while the indexes for motor vehicle insurance, apparel, and household furnishings and operations declined, BLS said.

The CPI rose 1.2 percent for the 12 months through October, a slightly smaller increase than the 1.4 percent rise for the year through September. The core index rose 1.6 percent over the last 12 months after increasing 1.7 percent in September. The food index increased 3.9 percent over the last 12 months, while the energy index declined 9.2 percent.