Inventories at U.S. wholesalers posted their largest rise in a year in December, the Commerce Department said Monday, indicating that U.S. businesses were gearing up for strong growth ahead.
Commerce said wholesale stocks of goods rose 0.6 percent, versus a gain of 0.5 percent in November and ahead of Wall Street expectations for a 0.4 percent gain. This was the largest rise since December 2002’s 0.8 percent.
One of the larger rises was recorded by automobile inventories, up 3.0 percent in the biggest monthly advance since December 1998’s 3.5 percent gain.
Wholesale sales were up in December by 1.0 percent after rising a revised 0.6 percent in the previous month. For 2003 as a whole, total wholesale sales rose 5.2 percent versus 1.6 percent in the previous year.
The closely watched inventory-to-sales ratio, which measures how long it would take to deplete stocks at the current sales pace, was at a record low of 1.17 months in December compared with 1.18 months in November.
This is an indication of how lean inventories still are compared to sales and gives some gauge of how much wholesalers will have to ramp up sales to rebuild stocks.