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Mar 15, 10:03 AM EDT

US businesses boost stockpiles at modest pace as sales slow

WASHINGTON (AP) -- U.S. businesses stockpiled more goods in warehouses and on store shelves in January, while sales growth slowed.

The Commerce Department says business inventories increased by a seasonally adjusted 0.3 percent in January from the previous month. Stockpiles rose sharply at auto dealers and furniture stores. Sales, meanwhile, increased 0.2 percent. That small gain followed a 2.1 percent jump in December, the most in six years.

Businesses have largely cut their inventories in the past year, a trend that could boost economic growth. That's because companies won't be able to meet customer demand by using stockpiled goods. Instead, they will have to order more new products.

Stockpiles at retailers rose 0.8 percent, however, while sales increased just 0.5 percent. That compares to inventory growth of just 0.2 percent among manufacturers.

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