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Economy in Brief

U.S. Business Inventories Rise While Sales Slip
by Tom Moeller  December 13, 2019

Total business inventories increased 0.2% (3.1% y/y) during October following a 0.1% September dip, revised from 0.0%. Total business sales eased 0.1% both m/m and y/y after a 0.4% September decline, revised from -0.2%. The inventory-to-sales (I/S) ratio held steady at 1.40 for the sixth consecutive month.

Retail inventories rose 0.3% (3.1% y/y) in October after a 0.1% uptick. Auto inventories declined 1.3% both m/m and y/y while nonauto inventories strengthened 0.7% (2.8% y/y). Inventories of furniture & home furnishings increased 1.8% (-3.5% y/y) following several months of decline. Clothing inventories eased 0.2% (-0.5% y/y) after falling 0.5%. General merchandise store inventories fell 0.2% (-0.9% y/y) after a 0.4% rise while department store inventories eased 0.2% (-7.4% y/y) after rising 0.5%. Wholesale inventories rose 0.1% (3.8% y/y) in October after falling 0.7%. Factory sector inventories improved 0.1% (2.4% y/y) after a 0.3% rise.

Retail sales increased 0.5% (3.0% y/y) in October and mostly reversed the September decline. Sales excluding autos rose 0.4% (2.4% y/y) and also reversed September's fall. Wholesale sector sales fell 0.7% (-1.4% y/y) after easing 0.1%, while shipments from the factory sector held steady (-1.5% y/y).

The inventory-to-sales ratio in the retail sector was unchanged at 1.45, but has been mostly falling since early this year. The non-auto retail I/S ratio also held steady at 1.19, and nearly matched its all-time low. The wholesale I/S ratio rose to 1.37 from 1.36 while the manufacturing I/S ratio held at 1.40.

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

Manufacturing & Trade Oct Sep Aug Oct Y/Y 2018 2017 2016
Business Inventories (% chg) 0.2 -0.1 -0.1 3.1 4.9 3.4 1.7
  Retail 0.3 0.1 -0.2 3.1 4.2 2.4 4.0
    Retail excl. Motor Vehicles 0.7 0.2 -0.2 2.8 1.7 2.0 2.0
  Merchant Wholesalers 0.1 -0.7 0.1 3.8 7.1 3.3 1.9
  Manufacturing 0.1 0.3 -0.1 2.4 3.5 4.5 -0.7
Business Sales (% chg)
Total -0.1 -0.4 0.1 -0.1 6.1 5.4 -0.8
  Retail 0.5 -0.6 0.6 3.0 4.6 4.5 2.4
    Retail excl. Motor Vehicles 0.4 -0.4 0.2 2.4 5.3 4.8 1.9
  Merchant Wholesalers -0.7 -0.1 -0.1 -1.4 6.5 6.7 -1.3
  Manufacturing 0.0 -0.4 -0.3 -1.5 6.9 5.0 -3.2
I/S Ratio
Total 1.40 1.40 1.40 1.36 1.36 1.38 1.42
  Retail 1.45 1.45 1.45 1.45 1.45 1.47 1.49
    Retail excl. Motor Vehicles 1.19 1.19 1.18 1.19 1.20 1.24 1.28
  Merchant Wholesalers 1.37 1.36 1.36 1.30 1.29 1.30 1.35
  Manufacturing 1.40 1.40 1.39 1.34 1.35 1.37 1.41
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