Businesses boosted stockpiles

WASHINGTON (AP) — Companies restocked at a faster pace in December, a positive sign they expect consumers to step up spending.

Business stockpiles grew 0.4 percent in December, the Commerce Department said Tuesday. That followed a similar gain in November. Sales rose 0.7 percent, almost double the November gain.

Companies are building up their stockpiles again after cutting them over the summer amid recession fears. Higher inventories require more production, which boosts economic growth. It also suggests companies expect more sales.

Rising inventories were a key reason growth accelerated in the final three months of last year. Still, some economists expect the restocking to slow this year.

Wholesalers reported a 1 percent increase in inventories. Retailers reported a 0.2 percent gain and manufacturers 0.1 percent.

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