Ahead of the Bell: US wholesale inventories

Josh Boak, AP Economics Writer
US wholesale stockpiles slipped in July, weighed down by oil

In this June 4, 2015 photo, a woman reaches for a bag of apples in the produce section of a Wal-Mart Supercenter store in Springdale, Ark. The Commerce Department releases wholesale trade inventories for July on Thursday, Sept. 10, 2015. (AP Photo/Danny Johnston, File)

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Commerce Department releases its July report on wholesale stockpiles at 10 a.m. Eastern Thursday.

HIGHER INVENTORIES: Economists expect that stockpiles held by U.S. wholesalers rose 0.3 percent, according to a survey of economics by data firm FactSet.

INVENTORIES AND SALES: Wholesale stockpiles rose 0.9 percent in June, the biggest monthly gain since April 2014. Sales increased 0.1 percent in June, although cheaper oil prices mean that sales have fallen 3.8 percent over the past year.

The combination of rising inventories and sales would be signs of faster economic growth. This is because companies would be anticipating stronger sales in the coming months, requiring them in turn to increase their stockpiles. Steady job growth since early 2014 has lowered the unemployment rate to 5.1 percent, a level usually associated with an economy at full health.

Still, the U.S. economy has struggled over the past six years to recover from the Great Recession. Annual economic growth has averaged a shade under 2.2 percent in the first half of 2015, roughly in line with other years of the expansion.

Many economists say that growth could pick up speed in the coming months. Because of a global slowdown from China to Europe, continued U.S. expansion will largely depend on job growth driving stronger consumer spending.

For the past three months, employers have added an average of 221,000 jobs. They look eager to continue hiring. Job openings surged 8 percent to 5.75 million in July, the most since records began in 2000, the Labor Department said Wednesday.