‘12 Days of Christmas’ items increase slightly

WARREN — If you’re in the market for a partridge in a pear tree, ’tis could be a jolly season indeed.

The 33rd annual economic analysis released by The PNC Financial Services Group said this year’s real bargain is in the cost of the popular pheasant, “down  20 percent to $20 due to an increase in supply.”

Collectively, gifts included in the classic holiday tune “The 12 Days of Christmas” will cost only about 0.7 percent more than last year, according to the PNC Christmas Price Index, a whimsical economic analysis that measures inflation by the cost of buying all the items mentioned in the song.

The small increase in the PNC CPI, released early this morning, reflects slow economic growth. It also shows that wage inflation caused an increase in some holiday entertainment options. The analysis calculated the price tag for the Christmas Price Index at $34,363.49, just $232.50 more than last year’s cost and less than the government’s Consumer Price Index, which has increased 1.6 percent over the past 12 months.

“The CPI is something we do this time of year to provide some economic fun for consumers,” said Karen Segesto, with PNC Wealth Management in Youngstown. “This song most of us have known since we were children, so it helps us make light of it and have some fun with it, but also helps us understand the economics a little better.”

Each year,  PNC’s tongue-in-cheek economic indicator tracks the cost of the items mentioned in the carol to illustrate the changing cost of goods over time as a way to gauge inflation. The tradition started in 1984 when a PNC predecessor bank in Philadelphia began estimating the cost of the 12 Christmas gifts as a holiday client letter. This year’s price is 82 percent higher than the inaugural report 33 years ago.

As part of its annual tradition, PNC also tabulates the “True Cost of Christmas,” which is the total cost of items bestowed by a “true love” who repeats all the song’s verses.

The PNC CPI also calculates the cost of shopping for the 12 gifts online. As internet prices tend to be higher, convenience comes at a cost this year. Those who prefer shopping online will have to spend $44,602 for the gifts, $10,239 more than buying them at a store.

Purchasing all 364 gifts would require $156,507, up more than $1,000 from last year and more than $56,000 from 1984.

The cost of each item was set to be revealed today on PNC’s interactive website, which teaches consumers about the index and features a historical comparison of index data. Of the 12 items measured by the index, eight remained the same price as last year.

But combined with the pear tree, the price for the first gift mentioned in the song fell 2.3 percent this year to $210, PNC economists reported.

Here is a rundown of some of the other gifts:

• Pipers Piping

Wage inflation will make some entertainment options more costly this year, including pipers piping. The cost for 11 pipers piping increased for the first time since 2013, rising 2.8 percent from $2,635 to $2,708.

• Drummers Drumming

The price for 12 drummers drumming also rose 2.8 percent to $2,934 due to increased pay. For bargain entertainment, the prices for nine ladies dancing ($7,552) and 10 Lords-a-leaping ($5,508) held steady this year.

•  Turtle Doves

The cost of two turtle doves soared 29 percent to $375 this year due to a shortage of birds. A turtle dove only lays two to three clutches a year, with only two eggs per clutch, making these lovebirds a hard gift to find.

• Gold Rings

Despite a rise in gold commodity prices this year, the cost of five gold rings stayed surprisingly the same at $750. The rings appear less volatile as the underlying commodity, having held steady for four consecutive years.

Thomas P. Melcher, chief investment officer for PNC Asset Management Group, noted that consumers should consider shopping early to take advantage of this year’s bargains before a potential Federal Reserve rate increase that is expected to raise consumer borrowing costs.

“The economy continues to expand, and it is likely the Federal Reserve will raise interest rates this month or early next year,” Melcher said. “Consumers appear to be cautiously optimistic spenders this year, and we’re anticipating a slight improvement in the holiday retail season.”

The PNC index’s sources include retailers, hatcheries, the Philadelphia-based PHILADANCO and the Pennsylvania Ballet Co.

To mirror the government’s core CPI, which excludes energy and food prices, PNC removes the Swans — typically the most volatile item in the index —  from its total index. With the Swans excluded, the core PNC CPI rose 1.1 percent, similar to the 2.1 percent increase in the government’s core CPI, which is also rising faster than the overall index.