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Wholesale Inventories Rose 0.5% in February, Matching Economists’ Expectations

wholesale inventory

U.S. wholesale inventories rose 0.5% in February compared with January.

When compared with February 2023, these total inventories declined 1.5%, the U.S. Census Bureau said in a Wednesday (April 10) press release.

The monthly rise in wholesale inventories was expected by economists polled by Reuters, the media outlet reported Wednesday.

The rebound in these inventories — which fell 0.2% in January — suggests that these wholesalers’ stocks could contribute to economic growth this quarter, according to the report.

Wholesale inventories totaled $901.1 billion at the end of February, according to the Census Bureau press release. That figure includes total inventories of merchant wholesalers, except manufacturers’ sales branches and offices, with adjustments for seasonal variations and trading day differences.

From January to February, durable goods inventories rose 1%, the release said. Among the categories contributing to that gain were machinery, up 2.1%, and lumber, up 1%. Those categories led the way, while the rest of the durable goods categories defined by the Census Bureau also rose, but by smaller percentages.

During the same period, nondurable goods inventories declined 0.3%, per the release. The month’s biggest drops were seen in farm products, down 3.9%, and petroleum, down 3.6%. Four of the nine categories of nondurable goods went against this trend, with inventories of drugs, apparel, chemicals and alcohol recording gains during the month.

The Commerce Department reported Feb. 28 that the economy grew at a 3.2% annualized pace in the fourth quarter, down from an initial estimate of 3.3%.

The agency’s newest calculation reflected a deceleration from the 4.9% pace that had been seen in the third quarter, PYMNTS reported at the time.

On March 29, the Census Bureau reported that retail inventories increased to $808.8 billion in February, a figure that was 0.5% higher than January and 5.6% higher than February 2023. That figure is adjusted for seasonal variations and trading day differences, but not for price changes.

Retailers are reportedly embracing “just-in-time” inventory management once more after years of excess stock. Having sold off the goods that collected in stores and warehouses since 2022, merchants have shifted their focus to restocking instead of holding onto product in case of supply chain issues, the so-called “just-in-case” strategy.