February 2018 Headline Business Sales Declined, Inventories Grew

Econintersect's analysis of final business sales data (retail plus wholesale plus manufacturing) shows a slowing in the rate of growth. Inventory levels are very high and do not correlate to times of economic expansion.

Analyst Opinion of Business Sales and Inventories

Inventories remain elevated this month. Our primary monitoring tool - the 3 month rolling averages for sales - significantly declined this month but remains in expansion. As the monthly data has significant variation, the 3 month averages are the way to view this series. Overall business sales are improving since the low point in 2015 - but the trend in the last 6 months has been declining.

Econintersect Analysis:

  • unadjusted sales rate of growth decelerated 1.9 % month-over-month, and up 6.0 % year-over-year
  • unadjusted sales (but inflation adjusted) up 3.2 % year-over-year
  • unadjusted sales three month rolling average compared to the rolling average 1 year ago decelerated 0.8 % month-over-month, and is up 6.1 % year-over-year.

  • unadjusted business inventories growth rate accelerated 0.4 % month-over-month (up 4.3 % year-over-year with the three month rolling averages showing inventory growth now growing), and the inventory-to-sales ratio is 1.50 which is elevated for this month in times of economic growth).

US Census Headlines:

  • seasonally adjusted sales down 0.2 % month-over-month, up 5.7 % year-over-year.
  • seasonally adjusted inventories were up 0.6 % month-over-month (up 3.7 % year-over-year), inventory-to-sales ratios were up from 1.37 one year ago - and are now 1.34.
  • market expectations (from Bloomberg / Econoday) were for inventory growth of 0.3 % to 0.7 % (consensus +0.6 %).

The way data is released, differences between the business releases pumped out by the U.S. Census Bureau are not easy to understand with a quick reading. The entire story does not come together until the Business Sales Report (this report) comes out. At this point, a coherent and complete business contribution to the economy can be understood.

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