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Economy in Brief

U.S. Business Inventories Are Roughly Unchanged
by Tom Moeller  May 13, 2013

Total business inventories were roughly unchanged during March (4.5% y/y) for the second consecutive month. The figure was accompanied by a 1.1% drop (+1.8% y/y) in business sales which reversed the prior month's increase. As a result, the inventory-to-sales ratio ticked up to  to 1.29.

Merchant wholesale inventories rose 0.4% (4.7% y/y) and recovered the February decline due to across-the-board industry strength. The y/y gain, however,  was roughly half that of the prior two years. The restraint is seen in both durable and nondurable goods. The inventory-to-sales ratio rose back to 1.21, its highest since October 2009. Factory sector inventories were unchanged (2.1% y/y). The inventory-to-sales ratio rose to 1.29.

In the retail sector, inventories fell 0.5% (+7.3% y/y). Motor vehicle inventories slipped m/m but still were 15.5% higher than last year. Inventories excluding autos fell 0.6% (+4.0% y/y). Furniture store inventories slipped 0.3% y/y but clothing stores increased inventories 4.4% y/y. Building material stores raised inventories 4.5% y/y while inventories at food & beverage stores rose 2.2% y/y. The retail inventory-to-sales ratio of 1.40 was its highest since September 2009.

Business sales fell 1.1% (+1.8% y/y). Wholesale sales fell 1.6% (+1.3% y/y). Factory shipments also were down by 1.0% (+1.5% y/y). As reported earlier, retail sales were off 0.6% (+3.6% y/y). Excluding autos, sales fell 0.6% (+1.9% y/y).

The manufacturing and trade data are in Haver's USECON database.

 

Business Inventories(%) Mar Feb Jan Mar Y/Y 2012 2011 2010
Total -0.0 0.0 0.9 4.5 5.2 7.7 8.3
 Retail -0.5 0.2 1.4 7.3 8.4 3.7 6.1
  Retail excl. Motor Vehicles -0.6 0.4 1.4 4.0 3.5 3.6 3.9
 Merchant Wholesalers 0.4 -0.3 0.8 4.7 5.7 9.9 10.1
 Manufacturing 0.0 0.2 0.6 2.1 2.4 9.4 8.8
Business Sales (%)
Total -1.1 1.0 -0.1 1.8 4.5 11.3 9.7
 Retail -0.6 1.3 -0.0 2.9 4.8 8.3 5.8
  Retail excl. Motor Vehicles -0.6 1.3 0.2 1.9 4.0 7.6 4.7
 Merchant Wholesalers -1.6 1.5 -0.8 1.3 4.8 13.5 11.6
 Manufacturing -1.0 0.4 0.4 1.5 4.1 11.8 11.2
I/S Ratio
Total 1.29 1.28 1.29 1.26 1.27 1.26 1.27
 Retail 1.39 1.39 1.40 1.33 1.36 1.34 1.38
  Retail Excl. Motor Vehicles 1.20 1.20 1.21 1.18 1.20 1.21 1.24
 Merchant Wholesalers 1.21 1.19 1.21 1.17 1.19 1.16 1.18
 Manufacturing 1.29 1.27 1.28 1.28 1.28 1.27 1.28
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