By John S. McClenahen At the end of October, the latest month for which data are available, inventories held by U.S. manufacturers, adjusted for seasonal variations, were $464.57 billion, 0.5% higher than the revised level of $462.38 billion at the end of September, the U.S. Commerce Department reported on Dec. 13. For all of U.S. business, which includes retailers and merchant wholesalers as well as manufacturers, inventories at the end of October totaled $1.26 trillion, 0.2% higher than their revised $1.257 trillion level at the end of September. Don't be surprised that when the Commerce Department gets around to reporting December's data a couple of months from now that both the manufacturing and overall business figures also show an increase. "Chain store sales have declined so far in December. And elevated motor vehicle inventories and the announced production cutbacks suggest that auto dealers are not thrilled with he pace of auto sales and 2004 draws to a close," notes Merrill Lynch & Co., New York.