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Economy in Brief

U.S. Wholesale Sales and Inventories Continue to Rise
by Tom Moeller  June 10, 2014

Wholesale sales increased 1.3% (7.8% y/y) during April following March's 1.6% gain, last month set at 1.4%. Durable goods sales gained 1.7% (6.0% y/y) led by a 3.1% jump (6.3% y/y) in furniture sales. Motor vehicle & parts sales followed with a 2.9% gain (5.1% y/y) and professional & computer equipment sales increased 2.4% (6.7% y/y). Electrical equipment sales gained 2.3% (8.0% y/y but metals & minerals sales fell 1.9% (+3.0% y/y). Nondurable goods sales increased 1.0% (9.4% y/y) as drugs & druggists' sundries sales rose 3.0% (13.3% y/y). Grocery & related product sales rose 1.2% (10.2% y/y) and chemical sales gained 1.1% (8.3% y/y). Apparel sales retreated 1.6% (+13.3% y/y) and petroleum sales eased 0.1% (+14.6% y/y).

Inventories at the wholesale level gained 1.1% (6.7% y/y) during April, the same as a little-revised 1.1% March gain. The strength owed to a 1.4% rise (6.8% y/y) in the nondurable goods sector. That was driven by a 2.6% jump (22.8% y/y) in drugs and druggist sundries and a 2.3% rise (5.1% y/y) in paper products. Apparel products inventories rose 1.0% (7.3% y/y) and chemical inventories gained 0.8% (7.6% y/y). Petroleum inventories rose 0.4% (-3.3% y/y). Durable goods inventories increased 0.9% (6.6% y/y) as electrical equipment inventories gained 2.8% (4.2% y/y). Metal & mineral inventories rose 2.5% (3.3% y/y) but furniture inventories rose a lesser 0.7% (7.5% y/y).

The wholesale sector's inventory-to-sales ratio held m/m at 1.18 but it's risen from 1.16 at year-end. In the durable goods sector, the I/S ratio declined to 1.57 versus its recent 1.60 high. The machinery ratio fell to 2.45 and it was firm in furniture at 1.62. In the nondurables sector, the I/S ratio of 0.85 was down slightly versus last year. The 2.00 ratio in apparel contrasted with 0.31 in petroleum.

The wholesale trade figures are available in Haver's USECON database.

Wholesale Sector - NAICS Classification (%) Apr Mar Feb Y/Y 2013 2012 2011
Inventories 1.1 1.1 0.7 6.7 4.0 5.5 9.4
Sales 1.3 1.6 0.9 7.8 4.3 4.8 12.4
I/S Ratio 1.18 1.18 1.19 1.19 (Apr.'13) 1.17 1.18 1.15
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