Fri, Dec 25, 2009 - Page 6 News List

Twelve days of Xmas will cost at least US$21,500

GIFT LIST For those tempted by the song, the soaring price of gold is offset by a drop in the price of swans, geese and pear trees and cheaper labor

NY TIMES NEWS SERVICE , NEW YORK

The partridge is a deal, and so is the pear tree, for the generous giver who wants to bestow the gifts listed in the song The 12 Days of Christmas on a beloved this season. But despite a tattered economy, the memorable mix of leaping lords, milking maids and a slew of fowl will cost slightly more this year.

At $21,465.56, the collection of goods and services is about 1.8 percent more expensive than a year ago, largely because of higher gold prices, PNC Wealth Management in Pennsylvania said.

The group has compiled the list for 26 years as a catchy way to track the annual cost of living. The Web site, pncchristmaspriceindex.com, now includes sample lesson plans, games, music and other media to help students learn about economic trends.

Gold rose almost 43 percent this year, lifting the price of the carol’s five gold rings to about US$500, PNC said. Gold rings are one of five items on the whimsical gift list that rose in price. Four other items remained steady, and three fell from last year — bringing the total for the carol’s gifts to US$385.36 more than last year.

“Our index reflects a dramatic drop in energy, fuel and shipping costs,” said James Dunigan, PNC’s managing executive of investments. “But gold, turtledoves, French hens and higher wages for maids and dancing ladies brought the index up.”

Repeated purchases of the gifts, as the song suggests, would raise the cost to US$87,402.81, up 0.9 percent over last year’s tally of US$86,608.51. This was the smallest increase since 2002, when the PNC index decreased slightly because of the economic downturn at the time.

The one item that skews PNC’s index is the seven swans a-swimming. The cost of a flock, or wedge, of trumpeter swans declined this year by 6.3 percent, to US$5,250. That contrasted with last year when swan scarcity sent the cost up 33 percent from 2007.

Other birds plummeted in price this year, with the partridge down 50 percent, to US$10, from last year, according to prices PNC gathered from the National Aviary in Pittsburgh. The six geese-a-laying dropped 37.5 percent, to US$150, but the four calling birds stayed the same as last year, at US$600. The only birds on the list to increase in price were the two turtledoves, which rose less than 2 percent, to nearly US$56, and the three French hens, which surged 50 percent, to US$45, because they are imported.

Even the famous pear tree slid in price this year, down 25 percent, to US$150, as fewer landscapers were ordering such trees to adorn new homes.

Wage pressures tapped down the cost of labor, Dunigan said. But there were two exceptions.

The eight milking maids received an automatic minimum wage increase, to US$7.25 an hour. Even so, they totaled a mere US$58, up US$5.60 from last year. The eight ladies dancing fared far better, with a 15 percent raise, to US$5,473 for each performance based on figures from the Philadelphia modern dance company, Philadanco.

But other performers were not as fortunate, reflecting a jobless rate that doubled this year after hovering around 5 percent for much of the decade, Dunigan said. Pay was flat for the 12 drummers drumming, at US$2,475, 11 pipers piping, at US$2,284, and 10 lords-a-leaping, at US$4,414.

The fastest and easiest way to assemble the carol’s 79 items is by shopping online, but that adds to the final tab. True Love, named as the giver in the song, would have to shell out US$31,434.85 for the Internet purchases, largely because of shipping costs.

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