The U.S. Census Bureau reported this morning that U.S. business inventories rose 0.4% month-over-month in October, inline with the consensus estimate published by Bloomberg. Trade sales and manufacturers’ shipments fell 0.4% month-over-month, but were 3.1% higher than sales in October 2011. Inventories were 5.7% higher than a year ago.
Unadjusted inventories rose the most in department stores, up 13.8%, as one might expect heading into the holiday shopping season beginning November 1. The decline in unadjusted inventories came in building materials, down just 0.1%, again what might be expected at this time of year. Seasonally adjusted, building materials inventories were flat and department store inventories rose 1.6%.
The higher inventory levels, especially at department stores, demonstrate an expected uptick in sales, and the first six weeks of the holiday shopping season seem to have validated the inventory builds. However, sales were likely front-loaded and we will not have a clear picture of what really happened until early next year.