Wholesale Inventories Take Surprising Jump Higher

U.S. wholesale inventories jumped 1.1 percent February, which was more than twice what analysts had expected, while sales fell 0.8 percent in the biggest drop in a year, according to a Commerce Department report released Wednesday.

Wall Street analysts polled by Reuters were expecting inventories to rise 0.5 percent, compared with a revised 1.3 percent increase in January, previously reported as a 1.0 percent gain.

The decline in wholesale sales was the largest since a 1.4 percent drop in January 2007, the Commerce Department said. The inventory to sales ratio, a measure of how long it would take to sell stocks at the current sales pace, rose to 1.12 months' worth in February, from 1.10 months in January.

Petroleum and farm products led the February rise in wholesale inventories, with oil inventories increasing 2.6 percent, compared to a 0.3 percent drop in January.

Sales of petroleum stocks also rose 2.6 percent in February.

A decrease in autos helped push down sales of durable goods during the month.