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Economy in Brief

U.S. Wholesale Inventories Tick Higher; Sales Firm
by Tom Moeller  July 12, 2016

Inventories at the wholesale level notched 0.1% higher during May following a 0.7% April increase, revised from 0.6%. Nondurable goods sector inventories rose 0.2% (4.9% y/y) after a 1.6% jump. Farm-product inventories were strong again and jumped 5.9% (25.9% y/y), while apparel inventories increased 1.2% (7.9% y/y). Petroleum & products inventories rose 3.2% (0.7% y/y). In the durable goods area, inventories rose 0.1% (-2.3% y/y). Electrical equipment inventories gained 1.1% (-3.2% y/y). Machinery inventories increased 0.5% (-1.5% y/y), but motor vehicle inventories fell 1.9% (+0.9% y/y).

Wholesale sector sales increased 0.5% (0.3% y/y) after a 0.8% April gain. Nondurable goods buying increased 0.5% (-1.6% y/y) as petroleum & petroleum product sales jumped another 5.6% (-15.7% y/y) with higher prices. Apparel sales surged 2.6% (2.4% y/y), but chemical sales fell 0.5% (-1.7% y/y). Durable goods purchases increased 0.6% (2.6% y/y), but motor vehicle sales fell 1.2% (-1.6% y/y). Furniture & home furnishings sales improved 1.3% (13.5% y/y). Machinery purchases eased 0.1% (+4.2%% y/y), but electrical equipment sales jumped 2.4% (3.2% y/y).

The inventory-to-sales ratio in the wholesale sector eased to 1.35, down from the expansion high of 1.37 reached in January. The nondurable goods ratio held steady at 1.05 as the petroleum ratio eased to 0.47. The ratio in the apparel sector backed off the record to 2.30, and the chemicals ratio was steady at an elevated 1.27. In the durable goods sector, the I/S ratio declined to 1.67, down from the August high of 1.72. The 3.02 machinery ratio was steady, but the ratio in electrical goods fell to 1.01. The ratio of 1.78 in the auto sector was down from expansion high of 1.81 reached in January. That was up sharply from 1.53 averaged in 2012.

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

Wholesale Sector - NAICS Classification (%) May Apr Mar Y/Y 2015 2014 2013
Inventories 0.1 0.7 0.2 0.4 1.8 6.4 3.8
Sales 0.5 0.8 0.6 0.3 -4.3 3.6 3.0
I/S Ratio 1.35 1.36 1.36 1.31 (May '15) 1.30 1.20 1.18
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