WASHINGTON — Sales of merchant wholesalers rose remained virtually unchanged at $418.9 billion in December, as inventories dipped 0.1%, the Commerce Department reported Friday.

The flat December followed a revised 2.2% climb in November, originally reported as a 2.3% jump. The stagnant sales figure stood in contrast with the median 0.6% increase projected by economists polled by Thomson Reuters.

Sales of durable goods were down 0.9%, and sales of non-durable goods rose 0.8%. Sales of professional and commercial equipment and supplies were especially down among durables, falling 2.3% from November. The December sales figure was up 3.7% above the level for the same month a year ago.

Inventories ticked down 0.1% to $497.7 billion for December after rising a revised 0.4% the previous month, originally reported as a 0.6% gain, the Commerce Department reported.

The December inventory decline was also unexpected by economists, who projected a 0.4% increase. Durables were up 0.2% and nondurables down 0.6%. Inventories of electrical and electronic goods rose 2.6%, but motor vehicle and motor vehicle parts inventories dropped 3.8%. The December inventory level was 5.5% above the level of a year ago.

December's inventories/sales ratio for merchant wholesalers, except manufacturers' sales branches and offices, was 1.19, unchanged from November but higher than the 1.17 ratio a year ago.

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