By BridgeNews U.S. wholesale merchants reduced inventories 0.7% in July, its steepest drop since September 1996. However, sales by wholesalers during the month rose 0.6%, lowering the stock-to-sales ratio to 1.32, from 1.33 in June. The decline in wholesalers' inventories extends the revised 0.4% decrease in June, the U.S. Dept. of Commerce announced. Inventories were unchanged when compared with the year-ago levels and totaled $296.771 billion on an unadjusted basis. The fall in July inventories was led by a 0.8% fall in durable goods inventories. Stocks of electrical equipment slipped 3.8%, while machinery inventories dropped 0.5%. However, inventories of autos and computer equipment moved higher in July. Wholesalers' inventories of non-durable goods fell 0.6%. The 0.6% increase in July wholesaler sales follows a revised 1.1% dip in June. Sales were down 1.7% compared with a year ago. For durable goods, the inventory-to-sales ratio fell to 1.60 in July following 1.62 in June. For non-durable goods, the ratio of 1.02 was down from the revised 1.04 in June.