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Economy in Brief

U.S. Wholesale Inventories Increase as Sales Move Lower
by Tom Moeller  May 9, 2013

Inventories at the wholesale level rose 0.4% (4.7% y/y) during March following a 0.3% slip in February. Inventories of hardware, plumbing and heating equipment led the rise with a 2.1% gain (8.3% y/y) while apparel inventories were up 1.7% (3.3% y/y). Inventories of motor vehicles gained 1.2% (-0.3% y/y) and machinery, equipment & supplies inventories 1.2% (15.2% y/y). Offsetting these gains was a 0.3% decline (+7.7% y/y) in professional & commercial equipment while petroleum inventories fell 3.4% (-8.8% y/y).

Wholesale sector sales fell 1.6% (+1.3% y/y). Lower petroleum sales led the decline with a 7.5% drop (-2.5% y/y) as prices moved down. Sales of apparel dropped 5.5% (+1.3% y/y) and machinery sales fell 1.5% (+2.6% y/y). Moving the other way were motor vehicle sales which posted a 1.7% gain (5.6% y/y).  

The wholesale sector's inventory-to-sales ratio moved up to 1.21 in March. The durable goods ratio was at the cycle's high of 1.61. The I/S ratio in the nondurables sector rose to 0.89 but has been comparatively steady since 2010.

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

Wholesale Sector - NAICS Classification (%) Mar Feb Jan Y/Y 2012 2011 2010
Inventories 0.4 -0.3 0.8 4.7 5.7 9.9 10.1
Sales -1.6 1.5 -0.8 1.3 4.8 13.6 11.6
I/S Ratio 1.21 1.19 1.21 1.17(Mar 2012) 1.19 1.16 1.18
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