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Economy in Brief

U.S. Wholesale Inventories & Sales Rise Modestly
by Tom Moeller  November 9, 2016

Inventories at the wholesale level notched 0.1% higher (-0.1% y/y) during September following a 0.1% August slip, revised from -0.2%. The advance report had indicated a 0.2% September rise. Inventories of durable goods declined 0.4% (-1.9% y/y) after a 0.1% uptick. Motor vehicle inventories fell 1.7% (-2.8% y/y), but furniture inventories rose 0.5% (1.2% y/y). Computer equipment jumped 1.2% (-0.4% y/y) and machinery inventories eased 0.3% (+0.1% y/y). Inventories of nondurable products increased 0.9% (2.7% y/y) after a 0.4% decline. Apparel inventories declined 1.8% (-4.8% y/y) and offset a 3.8% rise in petroleum inventories (9.8% y/y).

Wholesale sales improved 0.2% (0.4% y/y) following a 0.7% increase. A 0.6% rise was expected in the Action Economics Forecast Survey. Sales of durable goods improved 0.2% (0.2% y/y) as motor vehicle sales increased 1.4% (-1.5% y/y), but electrical equipment sales increased 1.5% (1.4% y/y). Computer equipment sales rose 0.8% (-4.2% y/y) and machinery sales eased 0.1% (-1.9% y/y). Nondurable goods sales improved 0.1% (0.5% y/y) as petroleum sales surged 5.0% (1.7% y/y) with higher prices. Chemical sales increased 1.2% (-0.2% y/y), but apparel sales declined 1.1% (-2.6% y/y).

The inventory-to-sales ratio held steady at 1.33, and remained lower than January's 1.37 peak. The durable goods ratio eased to 1.66 and was down y/y from 1.70. The machinery I/S ratio rose y/y to 3.08, but the motor vehicles ratio eased y/y to 1.76. The computer industry's I/S ratio increased y/y to 0.83. In the nondurable goods sector, the I/S ratio of 1.02 was up y/y. The chemical sector's ratio of 1.24 compared to 1.13 in 2014. In the petroleum area, the I/S ratio of 0.46 compared to 0.33 two years ago.

The wholesale trade figures are available in Haver's USECON database. The Action Economic Survey results are contained in AS1REPNA.

Wholesale Sector - NAICS Classification (%) Sep Aug Jul Y/Y 2015 2014 2013
Inventories 0.1 -0.1 -0.1 -0.1 1.8 6.4 3.8
Sales 0.2 0.7 -0.6 0.4 -4.3 3.6 3.0
I/S Ratio 1.33 1.33 1.34 1.33 (Sept '15) 1.32 1.21 1.18
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