US businesses increase inventories by a modest 0.3 percent


WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. businesses increased their stockpiles in February by a modest amount while their sales slowed a bit.

The Commerce Department says business inventories rose by a seasonally adjusted 0.3 percent in February after an identical increase in January. And sales rose 0.2 percent in February after a slightly faster 0.3 percent increase in January.

An effort by businesses to rebuild their stockpiles added a full percentage point to economic growth in the October-December quarter, a period when the economy grew by a tepid 2.1 percent, as measured by the gross domestic product.

Many analysts believe growth slowed in the January-March quarter, in part because they think inventories subtracted from overall economic activity. Economists at JPMorgan Chase are forecasting annual GDP growth of just 1 percent in the first quarter.