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Gadget price declines slow for summer

Consumer electronics prices still drop, mostly, but not so much.

Price cuts took a summer holiday in June.

The rate of price cuts in consumer electronics has slowed, according to a study from The NPD Group, which examines the monthly prices of a hypothetical basket of electronic goods. While some products, such as wireless access points, continued to plummet, prices actually increased marginally for other products.

Overall, retail prices for the firm's CE Price Watch basket of goods fell by less than 1 percent from May and 15.6 percent from June 2003, the smallest declines since NPD began tracking this metric, in January 2003. The overall cost of the basket of goods, which spans 27 product categories, stood at $12,399 in June.

"Of the 27 categories tracked, 11 had increases from May pricing levels. The equivalent data in May showed that only seven products showed month-to-month increases," said Stephen Baker, an analyst at NPD. "On a percentage basis, only three product groups delivered more than a 5 percent price decline."

The CE Price Watch is conceptually similar to the consumer price index, which tries to evaluate the cost of living by looking at the changes in price of a group of commonly used products. Ideally, tracking these numbers can provide clues about the direction of the various segments of the industry or illuminate the effect of events such as component shortages.

Of all the product categories tracked, 802.11g wireless access points dropped the most, falling 10.3 percent from May. Blank write-once DVD discs fell by 8 percent to less than $18 for a pack of 10 discs. Last year, 10 packs were $23.41.

Other notable price declines for June included 32-inch Direct View

Portable DVD players and DVD recorders increased in price from May to June, though both are down 36 percent and 45 percent since January 2003. Standard DVD players rose in June as well, at a time when another analyst firm has reported that per-unit profit for Chinese manufacturers of these boxes is down to $1.