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'12 days of Christmas' get pricier

The Christmas Price Index climbed an anemic 0.9% this year as plunging bird prices offset an increase in the cost of five gold rings.

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By Ben Rooney, CNNMoney.com staff reporter

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NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- Christmas will be only modestly more expensive this year, according to a study out Monday, as prices for everything from partridges to pear trees declined in the weak economy.

The total cost to buy all of the items named in "The 12 Days of Christmas" song increased by just 0.9% this year to $87,402.81, said PNC Financial Services Group.

Of the 12 items in PNC's annual cost of Christmas study -- which tracks the prices of everything from calling birds to French hens -- three fell from last year while five increased in cost and four remained steady.

"This year's PNC Christmas Price Index again reflects the patterns in the broader economy," said James Dunigan, managing executive of investments for PNC Wealth Management.

The index got the biggest boost from a surge in the price of gold, which is at a record high near $1,200. That sent the cost of five golden rings up 43% this year.

Declines in bird prices were the main drag, with partridge prices falling by half, and the price of geese down more than a third from last year.

French hens, however, bucked the trend. Prices for the imported poultry jumped 50% to $45 for three.

With the nation's jobless rate above 10%, many of the index's labor related components stagnated. The cost for 10 lords-a-leaping, 11 pipers piping and 12 drummers drumming were all unchanged from last year.

However, an increase in the federal minimum wage helped boost the cost for eight maids-a-milking, the only unskilled laborers in the study, by 11% to $58 from $52.40 in 2008.

And "The 12 Days of Christmas" aren't any cheaper for online shoppers. The cost to buy all 79 items mentioned in one verse of the song from online retailers came to $31,434.85. That's about $10,000 more than the $21,465.56 it would cost to buy all of the items off line.

"In general, Internet prices are higher than their non-Internet counterparts because of shipping costs for birds," Dunigan said. To top of page

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