May 15, 2018 / 3:36 PM / 3 months ago

U.S. business inventories unchanged in March

(Reuters) - U.S. business inventories were unexpectedly flat in March as the biggest drop in stocks at retailers in six months offset increases in inventories at wholesalers and manufacturers.

The Commerce Department said on Tuesday the unchanged reading in business inventories followed a 0.6 percent increase in February.

Economists had forecast inventories, which are a key component of gross domestic product, ticking up 0.1 percent in March. Retail inventories fell 0.5 percent in March instead of decreasing 0.4 percent as reported in an advance estimate published last month.

Retail inventories rose 0.4 percent in February.

Motor vehicle inventories declined 1.1 percent in March instead of the previously reported 1.0 percent drop. Auto inventories rose 0.8 percent in February.

Retail inventories excluding autos, which go into the calculation of GDP, slipped 0.1 percent as reported last month. They gained 0.2 percent in February.

Wholesale inventories rose 0.3 percent in March and stocks at manufacturers also rose 0.3 percent.

The government reported last month in its advance estimate of first-quarter GDP that inventory investment added 0.43 percentage point to the economy’s 2.3 percent annualized growth pace during that period.

Business sales rose 0.5 percent in March after a similar gain in February. At March’s sales pace, it would take 1.34 months for businesses to clear shelves, down from 1.35 months in February.

Reporting by Lucia Mutikani Editing by Paul Simao

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