U.S. business inventories rose again in February, an indicator of economic growth as companies restock after pandemic shutdowns.
The Commerce Department estimated manufacturers’ and trade inventories at an end-of-month level of $2,010.8 billion, up 0.5% from January but down 0.7% year over year.
February’s gain, which was in line with economists’ expectations, followed a 0.4% advance in January.
Retail inventories were unchanged while motor vehicle inventories fell 2.6%. “Motor vehicle stocks are dwindling as a global semi-conductor shortage hampers auto production,” Reuters said.
Retail inventories excluding autos increased 1.2% as estimated last month, following a 0.2% gain in January.
Inventory investment has contributed to GDP growth for two straight quarters. Growth estimates for the first quarter are as high as a 9.7% annualized rate and GDP is expected to increase more than 7.0% this year, which would be the fastest since 1984 and would follow a 3.5% contraction last year, the worst performance in 74 years.
Business sales fell 1.9% in February after rising 4.5% in January. At February’s sales pace, it would take 1.30 months for businesses to clear shelves, up from 1.27 months in January.