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News updates from December 9: US Senate paves way for raising debt ceiling, Austria to impose up to €3,600 fines under mandatory Covid vaccination rules, US places visa restrictions on Africa’s richest woman

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Prices on US ecommerce websites rose by a record 3.5 per cent in November but online inflation is affecting different products unevenly this holiday season, according to Adobe Analytics, which tracks billions of online transactions.

Apparel prices jumped by 17.3 per cent year-over-year last month, driven by high demand and by retailers passing on higher supply chain costs, said Taylor Schreiner, director of Adobe Digital Insights.

Apparel websites also saw very high incidences of “out of stock” messages, Schreiner said, and consumers’ need for clothes of specific designs, sizes and colours made it harder for them to find alternatives when items they wanted were unavailable than in other categories.

Pent-up demand and supply chain-driven shortages pushed online prices for appliances and groceries up 4 per cent and 3.9 per cent respectively in November, breaking a years’ long deflationary trend in ecommerce.

Out of the 18 product categories tracked by Adobe, 11 saw price increases. Prices for electronics fell by 0.4 per cent, but this was well below historic levels of deflation. Between 2015 and 2019, electronics prices fell by more than 9 per cent a year on average, Adobe said.

The shifting patterns in online prices come against the backdrop of a 6.2 per cent year-on-year rise in US consumer prices.

Investors are awaiting Friday’s publication of CPI data for November, which could influence the Federal Reserve’s thinking on how fast to unwind the economic stimulus programme it launched early in the pandemic. Fed chair Jay Powell told a Senate committee last week that he no longer viewed inflation as “transitory”.

November typically marks the start of the US holiday shopping season when retailers lure customers with attractive discounts. However, this year, retailers have offered smaller discounts to offset higher supply chain and labour costs. On Cyber Monday, discounts on electronics averaged just 12 per cent, compared with an average markdown of 27 per cent last year.


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