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Economy in Brief

U.S. Business Inventories Rose
by Tom Moeller May 13, 2005

Total business inventories rose 0.4% in March and the y/y rate of inventory accumulation continued strong at 7.9%. The ratio of inventories-to-sales fell slightly, however, and returned to the record low average of last year.

Retail inventories rose 0.3% in March and also gained 0.3% excluding autos. Inventories of furniture & electronics increased 0.6% (6.2% y/y) following two months of decline and general merchandise doubled the prior month's increase with a 1.0% surge (6.6% y/y). Apparel inventories rose 0.5% (4.3% y/y).

Factory sector inventories grew 0.6% for the second month and the 8.9% increase versus last year remained the strongest since 1989.

Wholesale inventory accumulation moderated to 0.4%. During the last ten years there has been a 64% correlation between the y/y change in wholesale inventories and the change in imports of merchandise.

Overall business sales recovered 0.7% (6.7% y/y) after the 0.5% decline in February.

Business Inventories March Feb Y/Y 2004 2003 2002
Total 0.4% 0.5% 7.9% 7.7% 1.4% 1.6%
  Retail 0.3% 0.4% 4.8% 5.7% 3.9% 5.9%
    Retail excl. Autos 0.3% 0.5% 6.5% 5.9% 2.0% 2.3%
  Wholesale 0.4% 0.6% 10.8% 10.8% 2.0% 1.2%
  Manufacturing 0.6% 0.6% 8.9% 7.5% -1.3% -1.8%
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