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Economy in Brief

U.S. Business Inventory Accumulation Steady
by Tom Moeller January 13, 2006

Total business inventories rose 0.5% in November. The gain followed a 0.4% October increase that was revised upward and it was squarely in the 0.4-0.5% range of the last four months. The increases raised slightly the ratio of inventories-to-sales back to 1.26, the 3Q average.

A 0.4% gain in inventories had been the Consensus expectation.

Retail inventories surged 0.9% after an upwardly revised 0.4% rise during October. A 2.1% (-3.1% y/y) rise in motor vehicle inventories followed large additions during the prior three months. Excluding autos, inventories rose 0.3% following an unrevised 0.1% fall during October. Clothing inventories fell 0.4% (+4.6% y/y), offset by a 0.4% gain in furniture inventories (5.1% y/y). General merchandise inventories rose a modest 0.2% (4.8% y/y).

The 0.4% rise in wholesale inventories doubled the October increase. During the last ten years there has been a 67% correlation between the y/y change in wholesale inventories and the change in imports of nonpetroleum goods.

Factory sector inventories rose just 0.2%, held back by a 3.2% decline in petroleum refineries' inventories. Less petroleum, factory inventories rose 0.3% (3.3% y/y).

Business Inventories Nov Oct Y/Y 2004 2003 2002
Total 0.5% 0.4% 3.7% 7.7% 1.4% 1.6%
  Retail 0.9% 0.3% 1.9% 5.7% 3.9% 5.9%
    Retail excl. Autos 0.3% -0.1% 4.5% 5.9% 2.0% 2.3%
  Wholesale 0.4% 0.2% 5.9% 10.8% 2.0% 1.2%
  Manufacturing 0.2% 0.6% 3.8% 7.7% -1.1% -5.4%
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