Inventories at U.S. wholesalers rose more than forecast in September even as sales jumped, a sign businesses are growing more optimistic about demand.
The 1.1 percent increase in stockpiles was the biggest this year and followed a 0.8 percent gain in August that was larger than previously reported, Commerce Department data showed Friday in Washington. The median forecast of economists surveyed by Bloomberg projected a 0.4 percent advance. Sales climbed 2 percent in September, the most since March 2011.
Companies are restocking shelves and warehouses as an improving job markets boost consumer confidence and spending, which accounts for about 70 percent of the economy. Wholesalers had enough goods on hand to last 1.19 months at the current sales pace, the least since May, indicating orders to factories may soon climb.
“There’s not a sign that we’re overbuilding inventories,” Michael Brown, an economist at Wells Fargo Securities LLC in Charlotte, North Carolina, said before the report. “Businesses are doing what they can to keep pace with consumer demand.”
The median forecast for wholesale inventories came from a Bloomberg survey of 28 economists. Estimates ranged from a decline of 0.2 percent to a gain of 0.7 percent.
Wholesalers’ stockpiles of durable goods, or those meant to last several years, increased 0.9 percent, led by furniture, machinery and electrical products, Friday’s report showed. Sales of durable goods advanced 1.2 percent.
The value of unsold non-durable goods increased 1.4 percent, paced by gains in petroleum and farm products that may reflect higher prices. Sales of non-durables jumped 2.7 percent, the most since March 2011.
The inventory-to-sales ratio decreased in September from 1.2 months in August.
Wholesalers account for about 30 percent of all business stockpiles. Factory inventories, which make up about 38 percent of the total, rose 0.6 percent for a third month in September, Commerce Department data showed on Nov. 2. Retail stockpiles, the remainder, will be included in the business inventories report due Nov. 14.
The U.S. economy grew at a 2 percent annual rate in the third quarter. The Commerce Department initially estimated that inventories subtracted 0.1 percentage point from growth.
Gains in construction, factory inventories and exports had already lifted estimates for the revised reading of third- quarter growth up to 2.8 percent, according to calculations by economists at JPMorgan Chase & Co. in New York. Friday’s bigger-than-projected jump in wholesale stockpiles will probably push it even higher.
The extent to which inventories contribute to the U.S. expansion going forward depends on how both consumers and businesses fare. Household spending advanced in September by the most since February, whereas businesses have slashed orders for equipment ahead of the so-called fiscal cliff of tax hikes and spending cuts set to take effect in 2013 if Congress fails to act.
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