WASHINGTON, (Reuters) - U.S. wholesale inventories increased in January slightly more than initially estimated, suggesting that inventory investment will probably contribute to economic growth in the first quarter after being a drag in the prior period.
The Commerce Department said on Friday that wholesale inventories rose 0.8 percent, the largest gain in five months, instead of the 0.7 percent increase it reported last month. Stocks at wholesalers rose 0.7 percent in December.
The component of wholesale inventories that goes into the calculation of gross domestic product - wholesale stocks excluding autos - increased 0.9 percent in January.
Inventory investment subtracted seven-tenths of a percentage point from the economy’s 2.5 percent annualized growth pace in the fourth quarter. A report this week showed manufacturer inventories increased 0.3 percent in January after rising 0.7 percent in December.
Wholesale auto inventories increased 0.7 percent in January after jumping 1.6 percent in December. There were also increases in inventories of petroleum and electrical goods.
Sales at wholesalers fell 1.1 percent in January, the biggest drop in a year, after rising 0.8 percent in December. Sales of motor vehicles dropped 0.5 percent in January after falling 0.3 percent in the prior month.
At January’s sales pace it would take wholesalers 1.26 months to clear shelves, up from 1.23 months in December.
Reporting by Lucia Mutikani Editing by Paul Simao