Business sales are down, and inventories are up, according to an April Commerce Department report (link opens in PDF) released today.

Seasonally adjusted sales took a 0.1% dip, to $1,268 billion, for April. While retailers maintained steady sales, a 0.7% drop-off in manufacturing outweighed a 0.5% increase in merchant wholesalers. In the last year, a 3.5% boost in retail sales has provided the primary push for a 1.5% increase in total business sales. Manufacturing is up 0.6% in the last 12 months, while merchant wholesalers have managed a 0.7% increase.

As sales dipped, April inventories headed up a seasonally adjusted 0.3%, to $1,657 billion. The moves mostly mimic sales, with a 0.4% increase in retail inventories leading the way. Manufacturers and merchant wholesaler supplies are both up 0.2% for April. In the last year, overall inventories are up 4.2%. 

To understand the rate at which goods are being made and sold, economists compute an inventories/sales ratio. Since sales fell and inventories rose from March to April, the inventories/sales ratio increased to 1.31, compared to March's 1.30 value. The April 2012 ratio was 1.27.


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