WASHINGTON, April 9 U.S. wholesale inventories
rose at a slower pace in February than in the prior month, which
could support views that restocking will not help the economy in
the first quarter.
The Commerce Department said on Wednesday wholesale
inventories increased 0.5 percent after a revised 0.8 percent
gain in January.
February's increase was in line with economists'
expectations. Stocks at wholesalers had previously been reported
to have increased 0.7 percent in January.
Inventories are a key component of gross domestic product
changes. The component that goes into the calculation of GDP -
wholesale stocks excluding autos - rose 0.5 percent in February.
Farm inventories jumped 2.7 percent after falling 0.9 percent
the prior month.
Businesses accumulated too much stock in the second half of
last year and are placing fewer orders with manufacturers while
they work through the pile of unsold goods.
That, together with severe weather, the expiration of
long-term unemployment benefits and food stamps cuts, is
expected to weigh down on first-quarter GDP growth.
The economy grew at a 2.6 percent annual rate in the fourth
quarter, with no contribution from inventories. First-quarter
growth estimates range from as low as a 0.6 percent rate.
In February, sales at wholesalers rebounded 0.7 percent.
Sales had declined 1.8 percent in January.
At February's sales pace it would take 1.19 months to clear
shelves, unchanged from January.
(Reporting by Lucia Mutikani; Editing by Andrea Ricci)