U.S. business inventories rise in Sept, but flat excluding autos

WASHINGTON Wed Nov 14, 2012 10:00am EST

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WASHINGTON Nov 14 (Reuters) - U.S. business inventories rose more than expected in September but stocks excluding automobiles were flat for a second month, which could prompt economists to lower their estimates for third-quarter growth.

The Commerce Department said on Wednesday inventories increased 0.7 percent to a record $1.61 trillion, after rising 0.6 percent in August. Economists polled by Reuters had forecast inventories rising 0.5 percent in September.

Inventories in September were lifted by a 0.9 percent rise in stocks at auto dealers. Auto inventories had increased 1.2 percent in August.

Inventories are a key component of gross domestic product changes. Inventories, excluding autos -- which go into the calculation of gross domestic product -- were flat for a second straight month.

The flat reading in nonauto retail inventories could see economists shave their estimates for the revised third-quarter GDP data, which they pushed up after last week's strong wholesale inventory data.

The government's first estimate published last month put third-quarter GDP growth at a 2.0 percent annual pace. In the wake of the wholesale inventory report, economists anticipated the government would revise this estimate to as high as 3.0 percent.

The Commerce Department will publish its first revision to third-quarter GDP data later this month.

Business sales increased 1.4 percent, the most since March last year, to a record $1.26 trillion in September after rising 0.6 percent the prior month.

At September's sales pace, it would take 1.28 months for businesses to clear shelves, down from 1.29 months in August.

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