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Economy in Brief

U.S. Wholesale Inventories Remain Little Changed
by Tom Moeller  May 10, 2016

Inventories at the wholesale level nudged 0.1% higher (0.2% y/y) during March following a 0.6% decline in February, revised from -0.5%. Nondurable goods sector inventories rose 0.5% (4.6% y/y) as petroleum inventories increased 3.3% (-3.8% y/y). Farm-product inventories gained 1.3% (-4.1% y/y) while apparel inventories improved 0.2% (9.3% y/y). In the durable goods area, inventories eased 0.1% (-0.2% y/y) as electrical equipment inventories fell 1.6% (-6.3% y/y). Motor vehicle inventories increased 1.0% (6.7% y/y). Furniture & home furnishing inventories gained 0.3% (4.8% y/y), but electrical product inventories declined 1.6% (-6.3% y/y).

Wholesale sector sales increased 0.7% (0.8% y/y) following four months of decline. Nondurable goods sales recovered 1.6% (-0.7% y/y) as petroleum & petroleum product sales jumped 13.5% (-23.6% y/y) with higher prices. Paper product sales eased 0.1% (+7.2% y/y), but apparel sales declined 5.9% (-2.8% y/y). Durable goods sales slipped 0.2% (+2.4% y/y) as motor vehicle sales fell 0.7% (+0.9% y/y). Furniture & home furnishings sales improved 0.6% (7.6% y/y). Electrical equipment sales increased 1.3% (6.5% y/y), but machinery sales were little changed (0.7% y/y).

The wholesale trade inventory-to-sales ratio remained at 1.36, near the highest level of the economic expansion. The nondurable I/S ratio eased to a near-record 1.05 as the petroleum ratio fell to 0.52. The ratio in the apparel sector jumped to a record 2.32, but the chemicals ratio fell to a still high 1.24. The I/S ratio in the durable goods sector held at a lessened 1.68. The 3.04 machinery ratio was steady, but the ratio in electrical goods fell to 0.97. The ratio of 1.83 in the auto sector was the highest of the economic expansion.

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

Wholesale Sector - NAICS Classification (%) Mar Feb Jan Y/Y 2015 2014 2013
Inventories 0.1 -0.6 -0.2 0.2 1.8 6.4 3.8
Sales 0.7 -0.2 -1.9 0.8 -4.3 3.6 3.0
I/S Ratio 1.36 1.36 1.37 1.32 (Mar. '15) 1.30 1.20 1.18
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