|Inventories - M/M change||0.2%||0.0% to 0.4%||-0.1%||0.5%||0.2%|
Wholesale inventories fell 0.1 percent in October against no change for sales, keeping the stock-to-sales ratio for this sector unchanged at 1.31. Wholesale inventories are on the heavy side as this ratio is well up from 1.22 this time last year. Year-on-year, inventories are up 3.6 percent which is well ahead of a 3.7 percent decline for sales.
Inventory builds reflecting falling sales include metals and autos, though strong sales of the latter at the retail level point to a bounce back for related wholesale sales. Inventory draws reflecting rising sales include furniture, apparel, and farm products.
Businesses including wholesalers watch their inventory levels carefully, limiting unwanted overhang as much as they can especially when sales are slow. The decline in October inventories, together with a sizable 3-tenth downward revision to September to plus 0.2 percent, may be negatives for third-quarter GDP but are positives for the production and employment outlooks. Watch Friday for the business inventories report which will include data from the retail sector.
Market Consensus Before Announcement
Wholesale inventories have been heavy with the stock-to-sales ratio for the sector generally on the rise. But businesses, including wholesalers, have been working hard to keep their inventories in check as sales have mostly been soft. The Econoday consensus for October wholesale inventories is calling for a 0.2 percent increase.
Wholesale trade measures the dollar value of sales made and inventories held by merchant wholesalers. It is a component of business sales and inventories.
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 a slower rate of growth that won't lead to inflationary pressures. Wholesale sales and inventory data give investors a chance to look below the surface of the visible consumer economy. Activity at the wholesale level can be a precursor for consumer trends. In particular, by looking at the ratio of inventories to sales, investors can see how fast production will grow in coming months. For example, if inventory growth lags sales growth, then manufacturers will need to boost production lest product shortages occur. On the other hand, if unintended inventory accumulation occurs (i.e. sales did not meet expectations), then production will probably have to slow while those inventories are worked down. In this manner, the inventory data provide a valuable forward-looking tool for tracking the economy.
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