The rate of inventory build at the wholesale level, plus 0.9 percent in February, is high but so is the sales rate, at plus 1.2 percent. Given that inventory levels are a bit larger than sales levels, the mix of monthly rates keeps the stock-to-sales ratio unchanged for a third straight month at 1.17. On the durables side, February's wholesale build is led by machinery, hardware, and metals. On the non-durables side, where price effects play an especially large role, the build is led by petroleum products and farm products.
Previously released data show a small build for factory inventories with retail inventories to be released on Monday with the business inventories report. Growth in the nation's inventories is being well managed, staying on the lean side but still keeping up with respectable gains for sales.
The April 10 report will reflect annual revisions scheduled for release March 30, 2012.
Wholesale inventories in January rose 0.4 percent while sales slipped 0.1 percent. Yet the mismatch was not enough to drive up the stock-to-sales ratio which is unchanged at a very efficient 1.15. Despite softness in January's data, wholesale inventories continue to trend lower relative to sales, a trend that's more positively pronounced in the factory sector.