by Mish

In a separate report on inventories, the Commerce Department says that for May, the unadjusted retail motor vehicles inventory was -1.0%. However, the seasonally-adjusted inventory number was +1.1%. This is a 2.1 percentage point difference between the adjusted and unadjusted numbers.

Inquiring minds may be wondering if this seasonal adjustment is normal and whether or not there is a bubble in auto inventories.

Let’s address the questions with a look at charts and tables I created from a Census Data Download.

Motor Vehicle Sales

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Motor Vehicles and Parts Inventories Seasonally-Adjusted and Unadjusted

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click on chart for sharper view

Precise Normalness!

The last line in the above table answers the question as to whether or not a two percentage point spread between the seasonally adjusted and unadjusted numbers in May is normal.

Whether the unadjusted number is -6.90%, +0.71% or anywhere in between, the Commerce Department pretty much takes whatever the unadjusted number is and adds 2 percentage points to it to arrive at the adjusted number.

Whether prices and discounts are rising or falling does not seem to matter.

New Car CPI

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CPI Used Cars – Percent Change From Year Ago

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Change in Private Inventories New and Used Cars

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In the fisrt quarter, numbers released just today, the CIPI for new and used cars was -$10.1 billion.

CIPI Autos vs. Overall

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Real CIPI Autos vs Overall

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Inflation-adjusted, the first-quarter change in real private inventories at new and used car dealers was +27.2 billion vs a Nonfarm total of +7 billion!

Inventory Contribution Second Quarter

Nearly everyone is expecting a huge second quarter rebound in inventories. I fail to see why. That does not mean it won’t happen.

This morning, in New Measures of “Satisfactory”: First Quarter GDP Revised Up to a “Satisfactory” 1.4% I quoted Rick Davis at the Consumer Metrics Institutes as follows:

It is important to remember that the BEA’s inventory numbers are exceptionally noisy (and susceptible to significant distortions/anomalies caused by commodity price or currency swings) while ultimately representing a zero reverting (and long term essentially zero sum) series.

GDPNow has CIPI for second quarter adding .69 percentage points.

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Given wild jumps in CIPI we can expect anything. CIPI aside, I would have weaker numbers for PCE, residential investment, and nonresidential structures.

Returning to autos, it will take huge discounts to clear existing inventory levels in light of weakening sales and warnings from GM. Price pressures on new cars will in turn impact prices of used cars.

Auto Sales vs. Inventory Build

  1. June 28: Wholesale and Retail Inventories Rise Led by Autos: Diving Into Seasonal Adjustments
  2. June 26: GM Says “Market is Definitely Slowing” Lowers Outlook for Vehicle Sales
  3. June 1: Motor Vehicle Sales Flat, Hope Turns to Second Half: What About Fleet Sales? Incentives?
  4. May 2: Auto Sales Puke Again: Year-Over-Year Totals: GM -6%, Ford -7.2%, Toyota -4.4%, Fiat-Chrysler -7.0%
  5. April 3: Auto Sales Final Numbers: Down 5.7%, Two-Year Low; Don’t Worry, It’s Just a Plateau!

Yes, there is a bubble in auto inventories, new and used.

Mike “Mish” Shedlock

Wholesale and Retail Inventories Rise Led by Autos: Diving Into Seasonal Adjustments

On Monday, Census Department data showed durable-goods orders declined 1.1% for the month.

Collision Course: Motor Vehicle Production +0.5%, Motor Vehicle Sales -4.4% Year-Over-Year

In the third poor economic report today, we learned industrial production declined 0.4% vs. an Econoday Consensus of -0.2%.

Motor Vehicles Sales Dive in January, Light Trucks Down 7.8%

The BEA released two motor vehicle sales reports today, one for December and one for January. The latter was a bust.

Inventories Bounce, Led by Autos: Inventories Adding To GDP?

Adding to silly Commerce Department reporting of “auto sales”, today we learn business inventories were up 0.3%, led by autos up 1.1%. The rise in inventories matched the Econoday consensus estimate.

Auto Inventories Highest Since July 2009:Concerns Mount, Ford Vehicle Sales Decline 7.2%, GM Up 1.6%

More auto numbers will come in later in the day, but the initial reports show Mixed Sales Results in March.

Motor Vehicle Sales Flat, Hope Turns to Second Half: What About Fleet Sales? Incentives?

Now that the second quarter boost thesis is dead on the vine, automakers look forward to the second half.

Motor Vehicle Production Index Hits New Record High

Industrial production rose 0.3% in December from a downward revision of 0.4% in November originally reported as 0.6%

Second-Order Consequences of Self-Driving Vehicles

Benedict Evans, a blogger who works for a venture capital firm that invests in technology, has an interesting article on the shift to electric and self-driving vehicles.

GM Says “Market is Definitely Slowing” Lowers Outlook for Vehicle Sales

Reuters reports GM Lowers Outlook for U.S. 2017 New Vehicle Sales, but not by enough in my estimation.