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U.S. wholesale inventories up 1.0% in December

U.S. wholesale inventories up 1.0% in December (by Greg Robb)

WASHINGTON (MarketWatch) - Inventories at the wholesale level rose 1.0% in December, the second strong gain in the past three months, the Commerce Department said Thursday. The increase was larger than expected. Economists had forecast an increase of about 0.4% in the month. Inventories in November were revised to show no change compared with the initial estimate of a 0.1% increase. Wholesale inventories jumped 1.2% in October. Sales of wholesalers rose 1.3% in December after a 0.5% gain in the previous month. The inventory-to-sales ratio was remained steady at 1.15 in December for the fifth straight month. Economists are watching inventories closely because stock building was a major driver of economic growth in the fourth quarter, adding just under 2 percentage points to the initial estimate of a 2.8% annual growth rate. Analysts expect businesses to slow the pace they rebuild their stocks in the first quarter, one reason why growth is expected to slow a bit. Next week, Commerce will release a more comprehensive report on inventory behavior in December.