Wholesale inventories slipped 0.2 percent in November, a slight dip that doesn't change the outlook for a fourth-quarter build in overall inventories. A month-to-month downswing in food prices, which jumped steeply in October, made for a steep decline in the value of November's food and grocery inventories. In contrast, durable goods inventories rose 0.3 percent at the wholesale level led by autos. Autos posted strong unit sales in December which point to further stocking ahead.
The headline dip in November doesn't offset October's big build in wholesale inventories, at least for the quarter-to-quarter outlook. Factory inventories, a larger category than wholesales inventories, show sizable builds in October and November. In contrast, retail inventories, a distant second in size to factory inventories, have been flat. Retail inventories for November will be posted with Friday's business inventories report.