Wholesale inventories increased for a ninth consecutive month in September and grew faster than sales, suggesting that the restocking that has boosted transportation volume may lose steam in the months ahead.
The Commerce Department said wholesale inventories rose 1.5 percent in September, higher than the 0.7 median estimate by economists surveyed by Bloomberg News. The increase followed a 1.2 percent increase in wholesale inventories in August. Sales at the wholesale level rose 0.4 percent in September after increasing 0.5 percent in August.
Restocking of inventories drawn down during the recession has helped bolster manufacturing and has supported double-digit increases in freight transportation volume this year.
Last month's increase in wholesale inventories may have been aided by earlier-than-usual imports of containerized goods for the holidays. The National Retail Federation's Global Port Tracker report said containerized imports peaked in August but that November's totals are expected to be up 9 percent from a year ago.
The Association of American Railroads said intermodal traffic in October was up 14 percent from October 2009. Last month's weekly average of 235,444 intermodal units was the highest since October 2007, and the 12th highest weekly monthly average for intermodal on record, the AAR said.
The big increase in inventories in September left the ratio of inventories to sales at 1.18, meaning it would take 1.18 months to exhaust stockpiles at the wholesale level at the September sales pace. That was up slightly from 1.17 months in August.
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