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Economy in Brief

U.S. Wholesale Inventories Ease
by Tom Moeller  December 9, 2015

Inventories at the wholesale level dipped 0.1% during October following a 0.2% September rise, revised from 0.5%. The decline reflected a 1.1% drop (-9.5% y/y) in metals & minerals (excl. petroleum) and a 0.5% decline (+12.9% y/y) in automotive inventories. Computer & peripherals inventories also fell 0.7% (+0.1% y/y). Electrical goods inventories increased 0.6% (5.1% y/y) as did furniture inventories (9.9% y/y). Nondurable goods inventories ticked 0.1% lower (+5.6% y/y). The decline reflected a 0.7% drop (-16.6% y/y) in petroleum inventories. Chemical inventories were off 0.1% (+5.2% y/y) but apparel inventories gained 0.4% (14.1% y/y).

Sales in the wholesale sector were little-changed (-5.8% y/y) following a 0.5% rise. Furniture purchases rose 3.4% (3.9% y/y) and recovered a September decline, but a 2.6% drop (-1.2%y/y) in motor vehicle sales offset this gain. Machinery equipment sales fell 0.7% (-6.5% y/y) while electrical goods inventories rose 0.1% (2.7% y/y). Nondurable goods sales declined 0.7% (-6.9% y/y) as chemical sales fell 1.3% (-8.4% y/y). Petroleum sales gained 2.9% (-33.3% y/y). Apparel sales increased 2.6% (5.8% y/y) but grocery product sales fell 1.2% (-3.3% y/y).

The inventory-to-sales ratio held steady at 1.31, up sharply from 1.14 averaged in 2010 and 2011. The motor vehicle ratio increased to 1.77, the expansion's high. The ratio for furniture & home furnishings offset this rise with a decline to 1.63, and has moved erratically sideways during the economic expansion. The nondurable goods ratio was stable m/m at 0.98, the highest level since 2001.

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

Wholesale Sector - NAICS Classification (%) Oct Sep Aug Y/Y 2014 2013 2012
Inventories -0.1 0.2 0.3 3.6 6.7 4.1 6.6
Sales -0.0 0.5 -0.9 -5.8 4.3 3.0 6.2
I/S Ratio 1.31 1.31 1.31 1.22 (Oct. '14) 1.20 1.18 1.16
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