US: Wholesale Trade

Fri Oct 06 09:00:00 CDT 2017

Consensus Consensus Range Actual Previous
Inventories - M/M change 1.0% 0.3% to 1.0% 0.9% 0.6%

If overheating is suddenly an issue for the economy, as it may be given the spike in average hourly earnings in this morning's employment report, then wholesale trade data offer confirmation. Inventories in the sector surged 0.9 percent in August following July and June's already outsized surges of 0.6 percent each. Sales in the sector are even stronger, up 1.7 percent in August which, despite the jump inventories, pulls the stock-to-sales ratio down one notch to 1.28. Strength in autos is a major factor boosting the data though ex-auto data also show unusual strength, up 0.8 percent for inventories and 1.5 percent for sales. Inventory data for retailers and manufacturers are not showing the same pressure as the wholesale sector, at least yet.

Market Consensus Before Announcement
Wholesale trade inventories are expected to rise 1.0 percent which would be no change from the advance report. Wholesalers have been building their inventories aggressively the last several months though an outsized build for August could also reflect transportation snags tied to hurricane effects.

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.