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Economy in Brief

U.S. Business Inventories Gain
by Tom Moeller May 11, 2006

The 0.7% rise in total business inventories during March handily outpaced Consensus expectations for a 0.5% increase. It followed an upwardly revised 0.1% up tick during February and was the strongest rose so far this year.

Retail inventories gained 1.0% after a slight slip during February. Motor vehicle inventories rose 1.7% (1.8% y/y) while less autos, retail inventories rose 0.7%. Strength was led by a 1.9% (7.9% y/y) jump in building materials. Furniture inventories also rose a firm 0.6% (7.2% y/y) and apparel inventories jumped 1.3% (4.1% y/y). Inventories at general merchandise stores slipped for the third straight month (+0.6% y/y).

Wholesale inventories rose 0.2% though petroleum inventories fell 2.0%. Durables rose 0.6% (6.6% y/y). 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 jumped 0.7% after a 0.4% decline during February.

The inventory to sales ratio for total business was an unrevised 1.26 during February.

Business Inventories Mar Feb Y/Y 2005 2004 2003
Total 0.7% 0.1% 4.2% 4.5% 7.9% 1.5%
  Retail 1.0% -0.0% 3.4% 2.7% 6.7% 3.8%
    Retail excl. Autos 0.7% 0.1% 4.2% 4.5% 7.1% 1.9%
  Wholesale 0.2% 0.9% 6.3% 7.1% 9.8% 1.8%
  Manufacturing 0.7% -0.4% 3.4% 4.4% 7.7% -1.1%
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