WASHINGTON — Sales of merchant wholesalers fell 1.2% to $408.5 billion in October after rising a revised 1.9% in September, originally stated as a 2% advance, the Commerce Department reported Tuesday.

Inventories were up 0.6% to $497.1 billion for October after rising a revised 1.1% the previous month, the Commerce Department reported.

The October sales decline was much steeper than the 0.1% downturn projected by economists polled by Thomson Reuters.

Sales of durable goods fell 0.9% and sales of non-durable goods dropped 1.4%, with petroleum sales declining 5.7% to lead the way. Sales of motor vehicles and parts dropped 3.1%.

The October sales figure was still 2.3% above the level for the same month a year ago.

The October upswing in inventories outpaced the 0.4% increase the economists projected. The September increase was originally reported as a 1.1% gain.

The October inventory level was 6.6% above the level of a year ago.

The month's inventories/sales ratio for merchant wholesalers, except manufacturers' sales branches and offices, was 1.22, an increase from August's 1.20 ratio and the highest since a 1.23 figure in October 2009. One year ago, the ratio was 1.17.

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