Wholesale trade was up for April, according to a Commerce Department report (link opens a PDF) released today. After increasing 1.6% for March, wholesales sales increased a seasonally adjusted 1.3% to $418 billion for April.
While wholesale trade is used as an indicator of economic strength, investors pay close attention to durable goods as a potential sign of more sustainable confidence (or lack of confidence). For April, wholesale durable goods sales proved to be an especially strong point, rising 1.7% month over month. The gains were widespread across various industries, including improvements for automotive (+2.9%), professional equipment (+2.4%), and electrical (+2.3%) industries.
Wholesale nondurable goods sales edged up 1% due primarily to a 3.1% jump in medical drugs sales.
Investors also keep a close eye on wholesale inventories as increases could be a sign that businesses expect demand to pick up in the near future. For April, overall inventories increased 1.1% on top of March's 1.1% expansion. This time, however, durable goods trailed general numbers, with inventories up just 0.9%.
To understand the rate at which goods are being made and sold, economists compute an inventories/sales ratio. Since sales and inventories both increased relatively similar amounts from March to April, the inventories/sales ratio stayed steady at 1.18, just 0.01 points above the April 2013 ratio.