U.S. wholesale inventories fell in October by the largest amount in 19 years. Sales declined more, lengthening the time it may take for businesses to work off excess stockpiles and climb out of the first recession since 1991.
The 1% drop in inventories to $294.2 billion followed a 0.4% decrease in September, the Commerce Department said. Sales fell 1.4%, after falling 1.2% a month earlier.
The drop in inventories was the fifth straight and the largest at least since 1992, the earliest year for which data are available under a new system of classifying goods.
U.S. manufacturers say they expect business to pick up in the second half of 2002, based on a survey by the National Assn. of Purchasing Management. Of the 375 surveyed, 59% said they expect improvement from July to December of next year. One in three expected improvement in the first half.