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Jul 15, 10:12 AM EDT

US business inventories rose slightly in May

AP Photo
AP Photo/Steven Senne

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Inventories held by U.S. businesses rose modestly in May, as retailers stocked up to meet customer demand.

The Commerce Department said Friday U.S. business inventories rose 0.2 percent in May after edging up 0.1 percent in April. Sales rose 0.2 percent.

Manufacturers, pinched by weak global demand and a strong dollar that makes their products costlier in world markets, left inventories unchanged. Over the past year, factory inventories were down 3.0 percent.

Meanwhile, retailers raised inventories by 0.5 percent in May and 6 percent over the past year, a sign they are confident that American shoppers will continue to spend.

Auto dealers expanded inventories by 0.7 percent, furniture and appliance stores by 0.5 percent and sellers of building materials and garden supplies by 1.1 percent. But department stores cut inventories by 0.7 percent.

A slowdown in restocking empty shelves has dragged down economic growth three straight quarters and helped limit growth to a lackluster 1.1 percent annual pace from January through March. Growth is expected to pick up in the second quarter on a rebound in consumer spending.

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