WASHINGTON, U.S. wholesale inventories increased as previously estimated in February, but the pace of inventory accumulation appears to have slowed relative to the fourth quarter.
The Commerce Department said on Friday wholesale inventories rose 0.4 percent after falling 0.2 percent in January. The department reported last month that wholesale inventories increased 0.4 percent in February.
The component of wholesale inventories that goes into the calculation of gross domestic product - wholesale stocks excluding autos - also increased 0.4 percent in February.
A report this week showed inventories at factories increased 0.2 percent in February. Retail inventory data will be released next week. JPMorgan believes that inventories will subtract a full percentage point from first-quarter GDP.
Inventory investment added one percentage point to the economy's 2.1 percent annualized growth rate in the fourth quarter. That was the second straight quarterly contribution to GDP growth after a drag that lasted more than a year.
The Atlanta Federal Reserve is forecasting GDP increasing at a 1.2 percent rate in the first quarter.
Sales at wholesalers increased 0.6 percent in February after rising 0.3 percent in January. At February's sales pace it would take wholesalers 1.28 months to clear shelves, unchanged from January. The ratio has declined from 1.36 months in January and February last year, which was the highest since January 2009.
((Reporting by Lucia Mutikani; Editing by Andrea Ricci))