WASHINGTON — Sales of merchant wholesalers were up 1.1% to $415.0 billion in April after rising a revised 0.4% in March, originally reported as a 0.5% gain, the Commerce Department reported Friday.

The 1.1% increase for April 2012 was much higher than the median 0.3% increase projected by economists polled by Thomson Reuters. The gain was attributable to a 4.8% gain in sales of petroleum and petroleum products as well as a 4.2% increase in sales of farm product raw materials and 3.8% increases in sales of both apparel and automotive products. The gains were offset by, among other things, a 3.0% decline in sales of paper products.

The April sales figure was 6.8% above the level for the same month a year ago.

Inventories were up 0.6% to $483.5 billion for April after an unrevised 0.3% gain in March.

The 0.6 gain was higher than the median 0.4% increase estimated by economists polled by Thomson Reuters. The increase was attributable to a 2.4% gain in inventories of machinery, equipment and supplies, and a 1.9% rise in inventories of lumber and other construction materials, as well as a 3.9% gain in inventories of paper and paper products. The gains were partially offset by a 2.4% drop in inventories of drugs and druggists’ sundries.

The April level of inventories was 8.2% above the level the same month a year ago.

The April inventories-sales ratio for merchant wholesalers, except manufacturers’ sales branches and offices, was 1.17, unchanged from the previous month but above the April 2011 ratio of 1.15.

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