WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. wholesale inventories increased slightly more than initially estimated in February amid a decline in sales.
The Commerce Department said on Friday that wholesale inventories rose 0.6%, instead of 0.5% as estimated last month. Stocks at wholesalers surged 1.4% in January. The component of wholesale inventories that goes into the calculation of gross domestic product increased a solid 0.8% in February.
That suggests inventory investment could contribute to GDP growth in the first quarter. Inventories increased 2.0% in February from a year earlier. Sales at wholesalers fell 0.8% after accelerating 4.4% in January.
At February’s sales pace it would take wholesalers 1.27 months to clear shelves, up from 1.25 months in January.
Businesses are replenishing inventories after they were drawn down early in the pandemic, helping to underpin manufacturing. But a big chunk of the inventory build is coming from imports, which could keep the trade deficit elevated, which could offset some of the boost to GDP growth from inventories.
Wholesale stocks of motor vehicles and parts fell 0.6% in February. There were increases in stocks of professional and computer equipment, as well as petroleum.
(Reporting by Lucia Mutikani; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama)