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US May wholesale inventories unrevised; sales edge up

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US wholesale inventories rose in May amid a strong increase in the automotive sector, but the pace of accumulation is slowing, supporting views that inventory accumulation was probably a drag on economic growth in the second quarter.

[WASHINGTON]  US wholesale inventories rose in May amid a strong increase in the automotive sector, but the pace of accumulation is slowing, supporting views that inventory accumulation was probably a drag on economic growth in the second quarter.

The Commerce Department said on Wednesday wholesale inventories increased 0.4 per cent as reported last month after advancing 0.8 per cent in April. Wholesale inventories increased 7.7 per cent on a year-on-year basis May.

The component of wholesale inventories that goes into the calculation of gross domestic product gained 0.2 per cent in May.

An accumulation in inventories contributed to a 3.1 per cent annualised increase in GDP in the first quarter. Inventories are expected to have subtracted from GDP growth in the second quarter. The Atlanta Federal Reserve is forecasting the economy grew at a 1.3 per cent rate in the second quarter.

The government will publish its advance second-quarter GDP growth estimate later this month.

The inventory bulge is concentrated in the automobile industry, which is experiencing a slowdown in sales.

Excess inventory, together with trade tensions between the United States and China, sluggish global growth and design problems related to Boeing's MAX 737 aircraft are weighing on manufacturing.

In May, wholesale auto inventories increased 1.8 per cent after surging 3.9 per cent in the prior month. There were also increases in professional equipment, furniture and hardware inventories.

But electrical goods inventories fell by the most since January 2016. Metal inventories recorded their biggest drop since October 2016.

Sales at wholesalers nudged up 0.1 per cent in May after declining 0.4 per cent in April. Motor vehicle sales accelerated 3.2 per cent in May after rising 1.0 per cent. At May's sales pace it would take wholesalers 1.35 months to clear shelves, up from 1.34 months in April.

REUTERS