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November Inventories in U.S. Rise 0.3%, in Line With Sales

Inventories in the U.S. rose in November for a second month as companies worked to bring stockpiles in line with a pickup in demand at the start of the holiday shopping season.

The 0.3 percent gain followed a 0.8 percent rise in stockpiles a month earlier, the Commerce Department said today in Washington. The increase compared with a 0.4 percent median projection in a Bloomberg News survey. Sales also climbed 0.3 percent in November.

As spending perked up early in the holiday shopping season, companies began to rebuild stockpiles they had drawn down in the third quarter. Another report today showed retail sales cooled in December, indicating demand may ease at the start of this year.

“Inventories are increasing after a drought,” Sal Guatieri, a senior economist at BMO Capital Markets in Toronto, said before the report. “After pulling back because of caution on the European turmoil, U.S. companies are now increasing inventories, given that consumer spending” picked up at the start of the fourth quarter.

Inventory estimates ranged from no change to a 0.8 percent rise in the Bloomberg survey of 44 economists.

Sales at retailers rose at a slower pace last month, another Commerce Department report showed today. The 0.1 percent gain in purchases was held down by declines at department stores, electronics and gasoline. Stores cut prices to lure customers looking for holiday gifts, depressing the value of sales.

Retailer Inventories

Retailers’ stockpiles in November, the only part of today’s business inventories report not previously released, rose 0.3 percent as sales increased 0.4 percent. Stores may have boosted orders as the holiday shopping season began.

New York-based luxury retailer Saks Inc. is among chains striving to keep the volume of unsold merchandise expanding at about the same pace as sales.

“Were going to grow inventories a little bit, but I hope to keep them in line with our sales growth,” Stephen Sadove, chairman and chief executive officer of Saks, said in a Jan. 10 interview on Bloomberg Television. “I don’t think that now is the time to really aggressively expand the inventory position.”

Gross domestic product climbed at a 1.8 percent annual rate from July through September, Commerce Department figures showed last month. Inventories were cut at a $2 billion annual rate, subtracting 1.35 percentage points from growth. It was the first time stockpiles were trimmed since the last three months of 2009.

Factory inventories, which account for almost 40 percent of total stockpiles, rose 0.5 percent in November, the Commerce Department said Jan. 4. Another 30 percent of all inventories, those held by wholesalers, rose 0.1 percent during the month, figures showed Jan. 10.

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