US wholesale inventories fall 0.2 percent in January vs estimate of 0.1 percent drop

A worker uses a forklift to load a delivery truck with MillerCoors beverages at the Stagnaro Distributing facility in Cincinnati, Ohio.
Luke Sharrett | Bloomberg | Getty Images

U.S. wholesale inventories fell slightly more than previously estimated in January, but inventory investment still was likely to contribute to economic growth in the first quarter.

The Commerce Department said on Wednesday wholesale inventories decreased 0.2 percent, the biggest drop since February 2016, after jumping 1.0 percent in December.

The department reported last month that wholesale inventories edged down 0.1 percent in January.

The component of wholesale inventories that goes into the calculation of gross domestic product - wholesale stocks excluding autos - rose 0.2 percent in January.

Inventory investment added one percentage point to the economy's 1.9 percent annualized growth rate in the fourth quarter. That was the second straight quarterly contribution to GDP growth after a drag that lasted more than a year.

The Atlanta Federal Reserve is forecasting GDP increasing at a 1.3 percent rate in the first quarter.

Sales at wholesalers slipped 0.1 percent in January after jumping 2.4 percent in December.

At January's sales pace it would take wholesalers 1.29 months to clear shelves, unchanged from December. The ratio has declined from 1.37 months in January of last year, which was the highest since March 2009.