It turns out that tracking the cost of the dozen unconventional gifts featured in the popular holiday song The 12 Days of Christmas is a surprisingly accurate gauge of inflation over the long haul.
Over the short haul, not so much.
Each year since 1984, PNC Wealth Management has tallied the price of 12 drummers drumming, 11 pipers piping, etc., etc., as a tongue-in-cheek inflation index.
Since its inception, the year-over-year increase of the Christmas Price Index has averaged 2.9 percent identical to the overwhelmingly broader Consumer Price Index.
Its volatile. It doesnt always match, said Larry Christ, a Raleigh-based senior investment adviser for PNC. But it seems like its pretty much on track with the U.S. governments CPI indicator. PNC Wealth Management is part of Pittsburgh-based PNC Financial Services Group, as is PNC Bank.
This year, however, the accuracy of the Christmas Price Index was as shaky as Santa Claus after one too many eggnogs.
The PNC index jumped 7.7 percent this year, versus a mere 1 percent increase for the CPI.
Blame the nine ladies dancing, which cost $7,553 up 20 percent from a year ago and the costliest item on the list. (PNC perennially obtains prices for the dancing ladies and the lords a-leaping from a Philadelphia dance company and the Pennsylvania Ballet.)
The cheapest item on the list: Eight maids-a-milking came in at a bargain $58, courtesy of the $7.25 federal minimum wage.
Possibly the biggest surprise: Five gold rings could be purchased for $750, unchanged from last year.
That was kind of a surprise for us, Christ said. Gold rings stayed flat year-to-year even though gold prices dropped. The rings were one of seven items on the list whose prices remained the same.
Add up all the gifts and this years grand total was $27,393.17.
Then theres what PNC dubs the True Cost of Christmas, which accounts for the songs repetitive impact. That is, the true love of the song actually repeats the sole gift bestowed the first day, a partridge in a pear tree, on each of the dozen days, as well as buying the 11 pipers piping for 11 days, and so on.
The true cost this year was $114,651.18 for all 364 gifts, up 6.9 percent from 2012.
Christ said PNCs analysis had absolutely no impact on his Christmas list this year.
Id probably put my money in the (stock) market if I had a free $15,000 floating around, he said.