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Total inventories rose 1.0% to a seasonally adjusted $1.642 trillion, the Commerce Department said Wednesday. Economists surveyed by Dow Jones Newswires had forecast a 0.5% increase.
January sales, meanwhile, fell by 0.3% to a seasonally adjusted $1.269 trillion.
Businesses often stockpile goods if they expect demand to rise, though too much inventory can become an unwanted expense. Fuller warehouses also contribute to gross domestic product, the broadest measure of economic output. Falling private inventories subtracted 1.55 percentage points from fourth-quarter GDP, when the economy grew at an anemic 0.1% pace.
Growth is expected to accelerate this quarter, helped by inventory accumulation.
Wednesday's report showed inventories for manufacturers were up 0.5% and wholesalers 1.2%.
Retail inventories grew 1.5%, led by auto dealers, building supply and general merchandise stores.
A separate Commerce Department report Wednesday said retail sales rose 1.1% in February, driven in part by higher gasoline prices, as well as spending on autos and building supplies.
report showed that the amount of goods on hand relative to sales was
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