U.S. wholesale inventories unexpectedly rose in October for the first time in more than a year, suggesting the economy could get a lift as a long-running effort by businesses to pare stocks reaches an end.
The Commerce Department said on Wednesday total wholesale inventories rose 0.3 percent, snapping a 13-month declining trend. September's figures were revised to show a 0.8 percent decline, previously reported as a 0.9 percent fall.
Economists polled by Reuters had expected stocks of unsold goods at U.S. wholesalers to fall 0.5 percent.
A moderation in the rate at which businesses are drawing down inventories contributed to economic growth in the July-September period, the first expansion after four straight quarters of decline.
Analysts reckon slower inventory liquidation and restocking will support the economy's recovery in the coming quarters.
The data was positive for stocks and underscored optimism about the recovery, said Marc Pado, U.S. market strategist at Cantor Fitzgerald and Co in San Francisco.
It shows a growing conviction on the part of manufacturers that they are going to move these goods, he said.
Inventories of durable goods, items meant to last, fell 0.4 percent overall, but auto stocks rose 1.7 percent. The gain in auto inventories was the largest since December.
Nondurable inventories were 1.5 percent higher in October, the largest rise since June 2008, as wholesalers added to their stocks of drugs, alcohol, farm products and petroleum products.
Sales at wholesalers rose by a more-than-expected 1.2 percent in October, the seventh straight monthly increase, after rising by a revised 1.3 percent the previous month. September sales were previously reported as 0.7 percent higher. Analysts had expected sales at wholesalers to rise 0.7 percent in October.
The rise in sales lowered the inventory-to-sales ratio, a measure of how long it would take to sell stocks at the current sales pace, to 1.16 months' worth from September's 1.17 months.
The ratio has declined for seven straight months, and in October was the lowest since a matching 1.16 in August 2008.
(Reporting by Lucia Mutikani; Additional reporting by Ellis Mnyandu in New York, Editing by Andrea Ricci)