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Economy in Brief

U.S. Business Inventory Growth Continues Moderate
by Tom Moeller  March 14, 2012

Yesterday, the U.S. Commerce Department reported that business inventories rose 0.7% during January following an upwardly revised 0.6% December gain. Business sales increased a more moderate 0.4% after a 0.9% December rise. As a result, the inventory/sales ratio held at 1.27 for the sixth straight month.

In the retail sector, inventories rose a strong 1.1% due to a quickened 2.6% jump (6.7% y/y) in motor vehicles. Clothing inventory accumulation also sped up to 0.8% (7.8% y/y) while general merchandise growth remained a restrained 0.3% (4.6% y/y). Inventories of home furnishings & appliances rose 0.4% (-2.1% y/y). Wholesale inventories rose a lessened 0.4% (9.4% y/y) led by a 2.3% rise (16.2% y/y) in petroleum. Less petroleum wholesale inventories also rose a lessened 0.3% (9.0% y/y). Factory inventories jumped rose a firm 0.6% (8.8% y/y).

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 (%) Jan Dec Nov Jan Y/Y 2011 2010 2009
Total 0.7 0.6 0.3 7.6 7.9 8.7 -9.3
 Retail 1.1 0.5 0.4 4.5 3.8 6.4 -10.0
   Retail excl. Motor Vehicles 0.4 0.4 0.3 3.6 3.6 3.8 -4.7
 Merchant Wholesalers 0.4 1.1 0.0 9.4 10.2 11.1 -11.8
 Manufacturing 0.6 0.2 0.4 8.8 9.5 8.7 -6.8
Business Sales (%)
Total 0.4 0.9 0.4 7.2 11.2 9.3 -14.6
 Retail 1.1 0.5 0.3 6.3 7.9 6.8 -7.8
    Retail excl. Motor Vehicles 0.9 1.1 -0.2 6.4 7.2 5.7 -5.5
 Merchant Wholesalers -0.1 1.4 0.5 7.9 14.3 12.6 -16.1
 Manufacturing 0.9 0.8 0.2 7.6 11.3 8.6 -18.5
I/S Ratio
Total 1.27 1.27 1.27 1.26 1.27 1.28 1.39
 Retail 1.33 1.32 1.32 1.35 1.33 1.37 1.46
    Retail Excl. Motor Vehicles 1.18 1.19 1.18 1.21 1.19 1.23 1.30
 Merchant Wholesalers 1.15 1.15 1.15 1.14 1.15 1.16 1.30
 Manufacturing 1.33 1.33 1.34 1.31 1.33 1.33 1.41
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