U.S. December wholesale inventories revised lower

WASHINGTON, Feb 7 (Reuters) - U.S. wholesale inventories were a bit weaker than initially estimated in December amid a broad decline in stocks, including motor vehicles.

The Commerce Department said on Friday that wholesale inventories fell 0.2% in December instead of dipping 0.1% as previously reported. Stocks at wholesalers gained 0.1% in November. They increased 2.1% on a year-on-year basis in December. Wholesale inventories increased 2.1% in 2019 after surging 7.1% in 2018.

The component of wholesale inventories that goes into the calculation of gross domestic product fell 0.1% in December.

The pace of inventory accumulation accelerated from the third quarter of 2018 through the first quarter of 2019, before shifting lower from the second through the fourth quarters. Some of the slowdown in inventory accumulation has been blamed on a strike at General Motors GM.N from September to late October.

Inventory investment sliced 1.09 percentage points from GDP growth in the fourth quarter, the most since the second quarter of 2018. The economy grew at a 2.1% annualized rate in the October-December period, matching the third quarter’s pace.

In December, wholesale auto inventories fell 0.6% after decreasing 1.4% in the prior month. Apparel inventories dropped 0.3% after falling 0.7% in November. There were also decreases in machinery, furniture and computer equipment inventories. Petroleum inventories jumped 7.8% after rising 5.2% in November.

Sales at wholesalers dropped 0.7% in December after rising 0.9% in November. Motor vehicle sales tumbled 4.1% in December. That was the biggest drop since February 2017 and followed a 4.7% increase in November. Apparel sales increased 1.9% in December.

At December’s sales pace it would take wholesalers 1.36 months to clear shelves, unchanged from November.

Reporting by Lucia Mutikani Editing by Paul Simao