washington -- Inventories of unsold goods at U.S. wholesalers rose a smaller-than-expected 0.1% in August, government data showed Wednesday on the back of falling supplies of nondurable goods.
Wall Street analysts had forecast a 0.3% advance in inventories after a 0.2% gain in July.
In a sign of the continuing crisis in the housing industry, sales of lumber and furniture both dropped sharply while inventories of both rose in August.
"The August wholesale inventories reflected the continued cautious approach by firms in managing their inventories amid a decelerating economy," Joseph Brusuelas, chief U.S. economist at IDEAglobal in New York, said in research note.
Sales at wholesalers rose 0.4% in August after an upwardly revised 0.2% gain the previous month.
The inventory-to-sales ratio, which measures how long it would take to sell off stocks of goods at the current pace, remained at a record low 1.11 months' worth for the fourth straight month.
Inventories of durable goods -- products meant to last at least three years -- rose 0.4%, with the largest increases in computer equipment and autos.
Auto inventories rose 2.4% as sales edged up 0.5%. The auto inventories-to-sales ratio rose to 1.40 months, the highest since October 2006.