TROY, Mich. (WWJ) – Is the cost of Turtle Doves up or down in 2012? What are true loves spending on Gold Rings and how much should you budget to hire dancers and other performers?

The answers to those questions can be found in PNC’s popular Christmas Price Index (CPI), now in its 29th year, which offers a fun and refreshing approach to measuring consumer spending and economic trends.

According to PNC’s 29th annual analysis, 2012 will be the highest ever. The Index reports an improving economy — coupled with a severe drought that caused increased feed costs for large birds — generated a 4.8 percent surge in the 2012 PNC Christmas Price Index®.

“The rise (in) the PNC CPI index is larger than expected considering the modest economic growth we’ve had over the past 12 months,” said Jim Dunigan, managing executive of investments for PNC Wealth Management. “Despite some weak spots in the economy, consumer balance sheets are improving along with consumer confidence, which means this may still be a spirited holiday season.”

Based on the gifts in the holiday classic, “The Twelve Days of Christmas,” the price tag for the PNC CPI is $25,431.18 this year, which is $1,168 more than last year. In 2011, the CPI increased by a modest 3.5 percent, and in 2010, it leaped 9.2 percent.

Here’s a sampling of what PNC’s CPI says is the “True Cost of Christmas,” (the total cost of items gifted by a True Love who repeats all of the song’s verses):

– Six items (the Partridge, Two Turtle Doves, Four Calling Birds, Eight Maids-A-Milking, Nine Ladies Dancing and 10 Lords-A-Leaping) remained the same price as last year.

– Sounding an Increase: The prices for 11 Pipers Piping ($2,562.00) and 12 Drummers Drumming ($2,775.50) advanced this year, both up 5.5 percent.

– Pear Tree: Economists report that housing prices may have bottomed and this trend is reflected in the PNC CPI as the home to the Partridge jumped 11.8 percent to $189.99. The Three French Hens were up 10.0 percent and the Five Gold Rings, which soared 16.3 percent, played catch up with the dramatic rise in gold prices in 2011.

– Maids-a-Milking: As the only unskilled laborers in the PNC CPI, the price for the eight Maids-a-Milking is represented by the minimum wage. With the minimum wage flat at $7.25 per hour, hiring the maids this year will not increase labor costs.

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