Inventories held by U.S. businesses on shelves and back-lots fell for the 12th straight month in July, the longest stretch in seven years, the Commerce Department reported Tuesday.
U.S. business inventories declined by 1 percent in July, slightly larger than the 0.9 percent drop economists expected. Compared with a year ago, the July inventories dropped 11.8 percent.
According to data released by the department, the July weakness in inventories was led by a decrease of 2.1 percent in stockpiles held by wholesalers. Meanwhile, manufacturers' inventories declined 1.2 percent in July.
The drop in inventories and a slight rise in business sales pushed the inventory-to-sales-ratio, a figure to measure how long it would take to deplete stocks at the current sales pace, down to 1.36 from 1.38 in June.
Usually, falling inventories are seen as a sign of lack of confidence in future demand or as a result of an unexpected increase in sales. Analysts look at the inventories-to-sales ratio to determine how to interpret the data.
The longest stretch in seven years of declines in business inventories came as companies struggled to cope with the prolonged recession, which started in December 2007.