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Economy in Brief

U.S. Business Inventory Increase Again Paced by Wholesale
by Tom Moeller  June 12, 2014

Total business inventories increased 0.6% in April (5.0% y/y) after a 0.4% rise during March. It was the firmest monthly increase in six months. Merchant wholesale inventories jumped another 1.1% (6.7% y/y). Inventories in the factory sector rose 0.4% (2.8%), twice the March increase.

Retail inventories gained 0.5% (6.1% y/y) after a two months of being roughly unchanged. The increase was powered by a 1.2% jump (11.6% y/y) in auto inventories. Nonauto inventories rose 0.2% (3.6% y/y) following a 0.1% March uptick. Inventories of furniture, electronics and appliances jumped 2.5% (5.4% y/y). Food & beverage store inventories gained 0.6% (3.7% y/y) while building materials inventories were roughly unchanged (2.9% y/y). Clothing inventories declined 0.3% (+1.;1% y/y) as general merchandise stockpiles fell 0.4% (3.0% y/y).

The latest inventory gains were accompanied by a firm 0.7% increase (5.4% y/y) in business sales which followed a 1.1% rise during March. Merchant wholesale sales gained 1.3% (7.8% y/y). Retail sales increased a lessened 0.6% (4.7% y/y) and excluding autos sales increased 0.5% (3.1% y/y). Shipments from the factory sector edged 0.3% higher 3.9% y/y).

The overall inventory-to-sales ratio held steady at 1.29, down a bit from the 1.31 January high. The I/S ratio in the wholesale sector was unchanged at 1.18 and in the factory sector it held at 1.30 for the fourth straight month. In the retail sector, the inventory-to-sales ratio held at a lessened 1.42 while the nonauto retail ratio held at 1.23.

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

Manufacturing & Trade (%) Apr Mar Feb Apr Y/Y 2013 2012 2011
Business Inventories 0.6 0.4 0.5 5.0 4.3 4.9 7.9
 Retail 0.5 0.1 -0.1 6.1 7.1 7.4 3.7
  Retail excl. Motor Vehicles 0.2 0.1 0.3 3.6 3.8 3.2 3.5
 Merchant Wholesalers 1.1 1.1 0.7 6.7 4.0 5.5 9.2
 Manufacturing 0.4 0.2 0.7 2.8 2.3 2.4 10.2
Business Sales (%)
Total 0.7 1.1 0.9 5.4 3.4 4.5 10.9
 Retail 0.6 1.5 0.9 4.7 4.3 5.0 7.7
  Retail excl. Motor Vehicles 0.5 0.8 0.4 3.1 3.0 4.0 7.1
 Merchant Wholesalers 1.3 1.6 0.9 7.8 4.3 4.8 12.4
 Manufacturing 0.3 0.4 1.0 3.9 2.0 4.0 12.1
I/S Ratio
Total 1.29 1.29 1.30 1.30 1.28 1.28 1.26
 Retail 1.42 1.42 1.44 1.40 1.40 1.38 1.36
  Retail Excl. Motor Vehicles 1.23 1.23 1.24 1.22 1.22 1.21 1.23
 Merchant Wholesalers 1.18 1.18 1.19 1.19 1.17 1.18 1.15
 Manufacturing 1.30 1.30 1.30 1.31 1.29 1.29 1.29
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