WASHINGTON (AP) -- U.S. businesses stockpiled more goods in December and posted the biggest sales increase in nearly six years.
The Commerce Department says that business inventories rose a seasonally adjusted 0.4 percent in December, led by an increase in stockpiles at stores that sell food and beverages. Auto and auto parts dealers trimmed inventories 0.6 percent; furniture and appliance stores also cut back.
Companies also reported a 2 percent monthly sales increase, best since March 2011.
Manufacturers reported that sales rose 2.2 percent in December; retailers posted a 1.2 percent gain.
U.S. economic growth was hobbled much of last year by inventory cutbacks. But businesses rebuilt stockpiles in the October-December period, accounting for more than half of fourth-quarter economic growth.