Friday, December 22, 2006

Partridge in a Pear Tree Index

This has been out for a month now, but the topic is timely: the annual Twelve-Days-of-Christmas index. It's the brainchild of PNC, which has been tracking it since 1984.  (You should definitely check their site out: it's very well done and interesting, and includes among other goodies a ticker that shows the items/price increases streaming across the top. There's also a well-done downloadable flash piece.)

According to the PNC survey, the cost of buying everything mentioned in "The Twelve Days of Christmas" is $18,900, up 3.1 percent over last year's, which - as it has done historically - tracked the overall U.S. Consumer Price Index really well. It also maps the shift in the economy from goods to services.  When the index was introduced in 1984, the cost of goods dominated the market basket. Today, it's services.

Among survey highlights: the tight labor market translates into higher paychecks for ladies dancing, lord-a-leaping, drummers drumming, and pipers piping.

Maids-milking, however, suffer the general fate of the unskilled. Minimum wages haven't budged in nearly 10 years.

For other items:

The Partridge’s home saw the greatest increase of all the items in the index, as Pear Tree prices increased 44 percent from last year.

“Robust commercial construction is sparking landscapers’ demand for ornamental trees, such as the species of pear used in the survey,” said [Jeff] Kleintop [PNC's Chief Invesment Strategist].

True Loves will find no increase in the cost of Partridges and most other birds this year as the cost of fuel to ship them leveled off, according to The Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Gardens. The exceptions were birds purchased at retail stores.

Like many of the birds, the price for Gold Rings was flat compared to last year, even though the price of the raw material—gold—rose significantly.

“A slowing residential real estate market is making people feel less wealthy this year and is dulling demand for luxury items, like Gold Rings,” said Kleintop. “Investors have been buying gold as an inflation hedge and prices per ounce remain much higher than last year. This may put pressure on profit margins at retail jewelers, who have not been able to pass along the increased cost to consumers.”

Also of note: if you order over the Internet, it's gonna cost you. When you factor in shipping costs, you're paying more. But there is the convenience factor to consider.

If you really want to go for broke, and not just buy all the items, but buy them the number of times they're mentioned if someone actually makes it all the way through all the repetitions of the verses (i.e., buys 12 partridges/pear trees, 2 x 11 turtledoves, 3 x 10 French hens.....), it would set you back $75K.

(What I couldn't find on their site was how their index tracked when adjusted for "real terms".  It may be there, but I didn't see it. This is just a quibble. PNC has done a great job - their index is fun, eye-opening, and - from a marketing perspective - is a great attention getter that also speaks brilliantly to what they do: the PNC Group that does the 12 Days Index is their Wealth Management Group.)

Personally, I'm happy that I'm not in line for a "12 Days" package from my true love. I enjoy birds at a distance (in the sky), but I'm not all that fond of having birds indoors (caged or uncaged). I'm a city girl, so I don't know what I'd do with the geese-a-laying (or where I'd put the minimum-wage maids-a-milking). There's no room in my condo for lords to leap or ladies to dance. A little piping and a little drumming go a long way, and, like most everything in the song, are better suited to the great outdoors than to downtown condo living. Come spring, there'll be 2 swans a swimming in the Public Garden, which is just across the street. We don't need seven of them (and if you count the Swan Boats, there may be seven swans there, anyway).

Five golden rings, however...Not that I'd actually wear them. I'm more or less a one-ring kind of gal. But they're small. They'd be easy to tuck into my jewelry box. They are noiseless and odorless. Five golden rings. And, as it turns out, there's been zero golden ring inflation over the last year (if you buy the rings in a store). If you go online, there was some inflation, but the rings are one of the few items that cost less to begin with. Even with overnight shipping, the golden rings would be a bargain.

There's still time to order. Operators, no doubt, are standing by.

1 comment:

Charles H. Green said...

Fascinating.

Who knew we could've made a ton shorting swans a swimming? Whereas geese doubled in the last two years, and doves went the other way at the same time? Not much call for the latter from the peace process, I guess.

Thanks for the trip through the song!