Wholesale inventories rose for a fifth consecutive month in May as companies filled their shelves in anticipation of greater demand, according to the Commerce Department.

The 0.5% increase exceeded economist expectations as wholesale sales fell for the first time in more than a year. Slower sales helped boost stockpiles as they dropped 0.3% to post their first decline since plunging 2.6% in March 2009.

The wholesale inventories-to-sales ratio increased to 1.14 from 1.13 in April, according to the report released Friday.

Economists expected wholesale sales and inventories to rise 0.4% in May, according to the median estimate from Thomson Reuters.

Inventories of durable goods rose 0.7% and auto inventories were up 0.4%. Sales of durable goods increased 0.5% in May, but nondurable goods fell 1.0% to post their largest decline since March 2009.

Wholesale inventories for April were revised downward to a 0.2% increase from the 0.4% expansion initially reported last month. April sales were revised upward to a 0.9% increase from the 0.7% gain initially reported.

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