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US wholesale stockpiles up 0.4 percent in March

WASHINGTON — Wholesale businesses stepped up their restocking of supplies in March, but their sales fell sharply.

The Commerce Department said Thursday that stockpiles held by wholesalers rose 0.4 percent in March compared with February, when they had fallen 0.3 percent. Sales in March dropped 1.6 percent, the biggest setback since March 2009, when the country was in recession. Sales had risen 1.5 percent in February.

Inventory rebuilding can be a positive for economic growth because it means stronger production at the nation’s factories. The March increase left inventories at $503.1 billion, up 4.7 percent from a year ago and 30.7 percent above the recession low.

The government estimated last month that the overall economy grew at an annual rate of 2.5 percent in the first quarter. That’s up from a rate of 0.4 percent in the previous quarter.

Growth accelerated largely because consumer spending rose at the fastest pace in more than two years. That also provided more incentive for businesses to restock their shelves after many cut back on inventory building at the end of last year.



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