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Economy in Brief

U.S. Wholesale Inventories & Sales Jump
by Tom Moeller December 8, 2011

Inventories at the wholesale level jumped 1.6% (10.9% y/y) during October following no change in September. The increase was led by a 5.7% surge (13.5% y/y) in petroleum which reversed the prior month's decline. Less petroleum, inventories also jumped 1.4% (10.7%) led by strong gains in metals (18.0% y/y), hardware (1.1% y/y), electrical goods (9.2% y/y) and motor vehicles (19.6% y/y). Other nondurables inventories were mixed m/m but strength versus last year was paced by chemicals (18.7% y/y), groceries (17.4% y/y) and apparel (15.3% y/y).

Sales in the wholesale sector rose a firm 0.9% (13.1% y/y). No m/m change in petroleum sales belied the strength of the 29.4% y/y gain due to higher prices. Less petroleum, sales jumped 1.1% (10.6% y/y). Sales of durable goods slipped 0.1% (+12.4% y/y) due to mixed industry performance. Sales of motor vehicles (21.0% y/y) and furniture (3.1% y/y) were firm but equipment sales fell (+3.1% y/y). Sales of nondurable goods were firm. Sales of farm products jumped (3.0% y/y) and apparel also was strong (4.3% y/y). However, chemical sales slipped but were up 13.2% y/y.

The wholesale sector's inventory-to-sales ratio ticked up m/m to 1.16. A slight uptick in durable goods industries was accompanied by no-change in the nondurables sector.

The wholesale trade figures are available in Haver's USECON database. The expectation figure is in AS1REPNA.

Wholesale Sector - NAICS Classification (%) Oct Sep Aug Y/Y 2010 2009 2008
Inventories 1.6 0.0 0.1 10.9 11.0 -11.8 3.7
Sales 0.9 0.3 1.0 13.1 12.6 -16.1 5.9
I/S Ratio 1.16 1.15 1.15 1.18 1.16 1.30 1.21
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