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December, 8, 2016

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'Twelve Days of Christmas' now costs US$34,363

PITTSBURGH -- The slow recovery of the U.S. economy is continuing to keep the cost of Christmas — or at least the gifts listed in "The Twelve Days of Christmas" — from spiraling out of control.

The price of two turtle doves jumped from US$290 to US$375 this year, but nine of the other 12 gifts listed in the carol stayed the same price or became cheaper, including a partridge in a pear tree, according to the 33rd annual PNC Wealth Management Christmas Price Index released Thursday.

As a result, the overall cost of the gifts listed in the song increased 0.7 percent to US$34,363, up US$233 from last year's total of US$34,131.

PNC Financial Services Group releases the price index each year as a whimsical way of tracking inflation.

Besides the turtle doves, only the cost of 11 pipers piping and 12 drummers drumming — both up 2.8 percent — increased.

Thomas Melcher, chief Investment officers for PNC Asset Management Group, said the increasing wages of drummers and pipers could signal a march toward higher wages for a broader range of workers in 2017. He said he wouldn't be surprised to see increases coming for the eight maids-a-milking, nine ladies dancing and 10 lords-a-leaping.

"There are some underlying inflationary pressures that seem to be building," Melcher said.

The price of five gold rings, as tracked by PNC, hasn't gone up in three years, even though the price of gold as a commodity has.

"At a certain point, the end product should begin to reflect the price appreciation of the commodity," Melcher said.

PNC calculates the prices from sources including retailers, bird hatcheries and two Philadelphia dance groups, the Pennsylvania Ballet and Philadanco.

The cost of buying the same gifts online is US$44,603 this year, up 2.2 percent from US$43,627 last year. But Melcher cautioned that's largely because it costs more to transport animals and performers — 10 lords-a-leaping cost US$5,509 in-person, but US$13,373 online because of transportation costs — than the cost of the items themselves.

"In most instances, it's cheaper to shop online," Melcher said. "I've never personally shipped a swan, but I imagine it's not the cheapest endeavor in the world."

A buyer who purchased all the gifts each time they are mentioned in the song would spend US$156,507, up US$1,100 from last year.

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