US: Business Inventories

Thu Aug 13 09:00:00 CDT 2015

Consensus Consensus Range Actual Previous Revised
Inventories - M/M change 0.3% 0.2% to 0.5% 0.8% 0.3% 0.3%

Inventories rose relative to sales in June but the news isn't that bad given that the build was centered in autos. Business inventories rose 0.8 percent in June which was well ahead of a 0.2 percent rise in sales. The mismatch lifts the inventory-to-sales ratio to 1.37 from 1.36.

But retail inventories at auto dealers were to blame, up 1.4 percent in June and contributing to a 0.7 percent rise for the retail component. Inventories at manufacturers and wholesalers, the two other components of the business inventory report, also rose, up 0.6 and 0.9 percent respectively.

Inventories are on the heavy side but the concentration in autos is welcome given how strong sales are, evidenced by the 1.4 percent surge for the motor vehicle component of the July retail sales report released earlier this morning. Note that this report, along with the retail sales report, are likely to lift revision estimates for second-quarter GDP.

Market Consensus Before Announcement
Business inventories are expected to rise 0.3 percent in July in what would be a moderate gain that would not signal unwanted overhang. This report will highlight early calculations for third-quarter inventory growth.

Business inventories are the dollar amount of inventories held by manufacturers, wholesalers, and retailers. The level of inventories in relation to sales is an important indicator of the near-term direction of production activity. (Bureau of the Census)

Investors need to monitor the economy closely because it usually dictates how various types of investments will perform. The stock market likes to see healthy economic growth because that translates to higher corporate profits. The bond market prefers more moderate growth that won't generate inflationary pressures.

Rising inventories can be an indication of business optimism that sales will be growing in the coming months. By looking at the ratio of inventories to sales, investors can see whether production demands will expand or contract in the near future. For example, if inventory growth lags sales growth, then manufacturers will have to boost production lest commodity shortages occur. On the other hand, if unintended inventory accumulation occurs (that is, sales do not meet expectations), then production will probably have to slow while those inventories are worked down. In this manner, the business inventory data provide a valuable forward-looking tool for tracking the economy.