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Economy in Brief

U.S. Wholesale Inventories Post Firm Increase
by Tom Moeller  June 9, 2016

Inventories at the wholesale level increased 0.6% during April following a 0.2% March gain, revised from 0.1%. It was the largest increase since last June. Nondurable goods sector inventories rose 1.3% (5.5% y/y) as farm-product inventories jumped 7.5% (12.1% y/y) and drug store inventories gained 2.2% (13.0% y/y). Apparel inventories increased 1.1% (9.3% y/y) and petroleum & products inventories rose 0.4% (-4.6 y/y). In the durable goods area, inventories rose 0.2% (-1.9% y/y) as lumber inventories jumped 1.3% (0.7% y/y). Electrical equipment inventories gained 0.6% (-4.4% y/y). Machinery inventories increased 0.7% (1.4% y/y), but furniture & related product inventories fell 0.5% (+4.1% y/y).

Wholesale sector sales increased 1.0% (-5.3% y/y) after a 0.6% March gain. Nondurable goods buying increased 1.5% (-6.4% y/y) as petroleum & petroleum product sales jumped another 9.0% (-18.9% y/y) with higher prices. Paper product sales strengthened 1.1% (0.6% y/y) and apparel sales rose 0.3 % (-8.3% y/y). Durable goods purchases increased 0.4% (-4.1% y/y) as motor vehicle sales rose 1.6% (-4.1% y/y). Furniture & home furnishings sales improved 1.8% (1.1% y/y). Machinery purchases rose 1.5% (0.4% y/y), but electrical equipment sales declined 2.7% (-7.4% y/y).

The inventory-to-sales ratio in the wholesale sector eased to 1.35, down from the expansion high of 1.37 reached three months earlier. The nondurable ratio eased to 1.04 as the petroleum ratio fell to 0.48. The ratio in the apparel sector improved to a record 2.33, and the chemicals ratio rose to 1.26, after falling in the prior two months. In the durable goods sector, the ratio eased to 1.68, down from the August high of 1.72. The 3.01 machinery ratio was steady, but the ratio in electrical goods recovered to 1.03. The ratio of 1.81 in the auto sector was nearly the highest level of the economic expansion.

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

Wholesale Sector - NAICS Classification (%) Apr Mar Feb Y/Y 2015 2014 2013
Inventories 0.6 0.2 -0.6 0.9 1.8 6.4 3.8
Sales 1.0 0.6 -0.2 -5.3 -4.3 3.6 3.0
I/S Ratio 1.35 1.36 1.36 1.31 (Apr. '15) 1.30 1.20 1.18
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