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Economy in Brief

U.S. Wholesale Inventories & Sales Jump in October
by Tom Moeller  December 9, 2021

• Durable & nondurable inventories strengthen.

• Sales firm for a second month.

• I/S ratio holds steady.

Wholesale inventories rose 2.3% (14.4% y/y) during October following an unrevised 1.4% gain. A 2.2% gain had been expected in the Informa Global Markets Survey.

Durable goods inventories increased 2.1% in October (14.9% y/y) following five straight months of strong increase. Metals & minerals inventories rose 6.6% (39.4% y/y). Motor vehicle inventories increased 2.3% (-0.6% y/y) and computer equipment inventories also increased 2.3% (29.0% y/y). Electrical equipment inventories rose 1.5% (17.4%) but machinery inventories rose a lesser 0.7% (4.1% y/y). Nondurable goods inventories rose 2.6% (13.7% y/y) after increasing 1.5% in September. Inventories of petroleum products surged 12.1% (55.4% y/y) with higher prices. Apparel inventories gained 4.4% (7.8% y/y) and chemicals inventories strengthened 3.5% (18.7%). Grocery inventories rose 0.7% (13.5% y/y) while paper & paper products edged 0.1% higher (9.5% y/y).

Wholesale sales surged 2.2% during October (22.2% y/y) following a 1.7% September rise, revised from 1.1%. A 1.0% rise was anticipated in the Action Economics Forecast Survey.

Durable goods sales improved 1.4% in October (14.2% y/y) after edging 0.1% higher in September. Hardware product sales increased 2.6% (12.7% y/y) while lumber sales strengthened 2.4% (21.9% y/y). Electronic goods sales improved 0.3% (4.3% y/y) and machinery sales gained 0.4% (16.5%). Motor vehicle sales fell 1.9% (-3.2% y/y). Sales of nondurable goods rose 3.0% (30.1% y/y) following a 3.2% September rise. Sales of petroleum products rose 6.7% (100.3% y/y). Paper product sales rose 4.2% (20.3% y/y). Apparel sales improved 3.2% (24.3% y/y) while chemical sales edged 0.4% higher (31.7% y/y).

The inventory-to-sales ratio held steady at 1.22. The durable goods I/S ratio edged higher to 1.55 in October from 1.54 in September while the nondurable I/S ratio held steady at 0.94.

The wholesale trade figures are available in Haver's USECON database. The expectations figure for inventories is contained in the MMSAMER database. Expectations for sales are in the AS1REPNA database.

Wholesale Sector - NAICS Classification (%) Oct Sep Aug Oct Y/Y 2020 2019 2018
Inventories 2.3 1.4 1.3 14.4 -1.7 1.4 6.2
Sales 2.2 1.7 -0.9 22.2 -4.9 -0.2 6.7
I/S Ratio 1.22 1.22 1.23 1.31 (Oct. '20) 1.38 1.35 1.28
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