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Economy in Brief

U.S. Business Inventory Growth Remains Moderate
by Tom Moeller  February 14, 2012

The U.S. Commerce Department reported that business inventories rose 0.4% during December following a 0.3% gain in November. For the year growth moderated slightly to 7.7%. Business sales increased 0.7% in December. As a result, the inventory/sales ratio slipped to 1.26 following four months at 1.27. During December inventories were 7.7% higher than one year earlier, and sales were up 8.9%.

In the retail sector, inventories rose 0.2% m/m following a 0.4% November increase. Motor vehicle & parts inventories ticked up 0.1% in December (3.7% y/y) after a 13.4% gain during 2010. Excluding autos inventories increased 0.2% (3.4% y/y) after a 3.8% 2010 rise. Inventories of building materials fell 0.5% (+0.7% y/y) after the 2.1% gain in 2010 and food & beverage store inventories rose 0.3% (5.3% y/y) following 2010's 1.4% rise. Apparel inventories rose 0.4% (8.2% y/y) after 3.1% gain one year earlier while furniture & equipment rose 0.2% (-2.9% y/y) following a 5.3% rise in 2010. General merchandise inventories increased 0.6% (3.1% y/y) after a 5.8% rise in 2010. Wholesale inventories jumped 1.3% (11.8% y/y) led by a 2.2% rise (16.1% y/y) in petroleum. Less petroleum wholesale inventories also rose 0.9% (9.7% y/y) after a 10.9% rise in 2010. Factory inventories ticked up 0.1% (9.4% y/y) after an 8.7% rise in 2010.

The manufacturing and trade data are in Haver's USECON database. Note that in a value-added feature, the database includes series calculated by Haver database managers showing sales, inventories and I/S ratios for total business less motor vehicle dealers and related wholesale operations.

Business Inventories (%) Dec Nov Oct Dec Y/Y 2011 2010 2009
Total 0.4 0.3 0.8 7.7 7.7 8.6 -9.3
 Retail 0.2 0.4 0.2 3.5 3.5 6.4 -10.0
   Retail excl. Motor Vehicles 0.2 0.3 0.0 3.4 3.4 3.8 -4.7
 Merchant Wholesalers 1.0 0.0 1.2 10.0 10.0 11.1 -11.8
 Manufacturing 0.1 0.4 0.9 9.4 9.4 8.7 -6.8
Business Sales (%)
Total 0.7 0.4 0.6 8.9 11.2 9.3 -14.6
 Retail -0.0 0.3 0.6 6.1 7.9 6.8 -7.8
    Retail excl. Motor Vehicles -0.7 0.2 0.5 5.1 7.4 6.1 -6.3
 Merchant Wholesalers 1.3 0.5 0.8 11.8 14.2 12.6 -16.1
 Manufacturing 0.7 0.2 0.5 8.5 11.3 8.6 -18.5
I/S Ratio
Total 1.26 1.27 1.27 1.29 1.27 1.28 1.39
 Retail 1.32 1.32 1.32 1.37 1.33 1.37 1.46
    Retail Excl. Motor Vehicles 1.19 1.18 1.18 1.21 1.19 1.23 1.30
 Merchant Wholesalers 1.15 1.15 1.15 1.18 1.15 1.16 1.30
 Manufacturing 1.33 1.34 1.33 1.33 1.33 1.33 1.41
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