The cost of five golden rings leaped from their 1993 yuletide price, but the bill for the gift list in the carol the "The Twelve Days of Christmas" rose by less than the inflation rate this year.

PNC Bank Corp, in an annual compilation released this week, said the cost of wooing one's true love with everything from twelve drummers drumming to a partridge in a pear tree will be $15,944.20 this year.That is up 1.16 percent from the year before, and well below the expected consumer price inflation rate of around 3 percent for 1994.

"The Christmas price index tells us that the general trend in inflation is flat," said Patrick Bradley, chief economist for PNC's asset management group.

Rebekah Fickling, a PNC assistant vice president who also works on the index, said the index compiled since 1984 broadly parallels inflation trends as tracked by the government, although specifics vary.

"Let's face it, a partridge in a pear tree doesn't quite do as opposed to women's apparel when it comes to reflecting trends in consumer prices," Fickling said. "But we were kind of surprised when we first started doing it that there was some correlation."

The cost of five golden rings took the biggest jump this year, rising to $450 from $325 in 1993.

That is mostly due to increased gold content of the wedding bands at the jeweler tracked by PCN. International gold prices alone, however, have only risen 2 percent from last year, Bradley said.

In the service sector, prices were unchanged or rose only sightly. Eight maids a-milking -for one hour at minimum wage- were a bargain at $34, the same as last year.

Performance artists also held the line. Ladies dancing and lords a-leaping showed no inflationary pressures, although the costs of 11 pipers piping and 12 drummer drumming rose by a slight 2.6 percent each, to $1,109.16 and $1,201.59 respectively.

Livestock was mostly cheaper, except for the more elegant swans and calling birds. Seven swans a-swimming will set the gift giver back $7,000. But six geese a-laying are $150, four calling birds, $280; three French hens, $15, two turtle doves, $50, and a partridge, $15.

Add another $19.99 for the pear tree, a seasonal bargain on sale at garden stores.

PNC also calculated what it called the "true cost of Christmas" --reflecting the cost of giving all the gifts mentioned when the carol is sung in its entirety. Then, the cost of giving 12 partridges in a pear tree, 36 calling birds and so on would be $73,345 --a price that is up a paltry 1.5 percent.

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Additional Information

Twelve Days of Christmas: What it costs

Total: $15,944.20

Partridge in a pear tree $34.99

Two turtle doves $50.00

Three french hens $15.00

Four calling birds $280.00

Five golden rings $450.00

Six geese a-laying $150.00

Seven swans a-swimming $7,000.00

Eight maids a-milking $34.00

Nine ladies dancing $2,661.86

Ten lords a-leaping $2,957.60

Eleven pipers piping $1,109.16

Twelve drummers drumming $1,201.59