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Economy in Brief

U.S. Inventories Rose Slightly
by Tom Moeller December 13, 2004

Total business inventories rose 0.2% in October following a downwardly revised, slight decline in September.

Wholesale inventories jumped 1.1%. During the last ten years there has been a 63% correlation between the y/y change in wholesale inventories and the change in imports of merchandise.

Retail inventories fell another 0.6% as motor vehicle inventories fell sharply for the second consecutive month, down 2.3% (+7.9% y/y). Non-auto retail inventories advanced 0.3% but meaningful gains were limited to building materials (+15.7% y/y) and food (2.7% y/y). Elsewhere, inventories of furniture & home furnishings (+2.5% y/y) fell for the second consecutive month. Apparel inventories rose 0.1% (1.3% y/y) and general merchandise inventories fell 0.1% (+3.2% y/y).

Overall business sales surged 1.2% (+11.0% y/y) driven by the 1.2% spike in factory shipments (10.6% y/y).

The ratio of inventories-to-sales fell back to the historic low of 1.30.

Business Inventories Oct Sept Y/Y 2003 2002 2001
Total 0.2% -0.0% 7.1% 1.9% 1.5% -4.5%
  Retail -0.6% -0.5% 5.9% 4.9% 6.0% -2.8%
    Retail excl. Autos 0.3% 0.1% 4.8% 3.0% 2.6% -1.1%
  Wholesale 1.1% 0.6% 10.6% 2.2% 0.4% -4.5%
  Manufacturing 0.5% 0.1% 5.9% -1.3% -1.8% -6.1%
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