Big Drop in Wholesale Inventories as Sales Surge

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Wholesale inventories and sales should be a relevant economic reading, but the one month lag can mute the reaction to the news. The Commerce Department reported that wholesale inventories were down 0.3% and sales were up by 1.7% for the month of February.

As far as consensus estimates on inventories, Bloomberg was looking for a gain of 0.5% while Dow Jones was pegging the estimate for a gain at 0.6%. Today’s February report was worse than every single economist polled, as Bloomberg’s range was for a gain of 0.2% to 1.4%.

It is important to understand that wholesalers account for about one-third of all inventories. The report is seasonally adjusted and came to $501.36 billion in inventories. That was the largest decline in about 18 months. The seasonally adjusted sales came to $422.5 billion, and the gain came from petroleum, nondurables and computer equipment.

This number matters when it is grossly off the mark. That being said, here is a copy from the Census Bureau showing the long-term graph, and it includes the impact and imbalances from during and before the Great Recession.