U.S. business inventories rose 1 percent during July, the seventh consecutive monthly increase and the largest in two years, the Commerce Department reported.
The increase included a 2.5 percent jump in retail auto inventories. It also reflected smaller levels of restocking for a back-to-school season that produced stronger-than-expected retail sales in August, and earlier-than-usual imports for the holiday season.
The National Retail Federation has said July will be this year’s peak month for holiday imports. Many shippers moved cargo in advance of the usual October peak to avoid a repeat of delays and capacity problems that developed earlier this year.
The Commerce Department said the business inventory-to-sales ratio, excluding sales of autos and parts, held steady at 1.26. Business sales rose 0.7 percent, the largest increase since March. Sales have risen in five of the last seven months.
Economists had predicted business inventories would rise about 0.7 percent. The Commerce Department last week reported that factory inventories rose 1 percent and wholesale inventories jumped 1.3 percent in July.
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