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Wholesale stockpiles increase a bit

WASHINGTON - The Commerce Department said stockpiles at the wholesale level rose a seasonally adjusted 0.9 percent in February, to $478.9 billion. The government also revised January wholesale inventory growth to 0.6 percent, up from 0.4 percent.

Sales at the wholesale level rose 1.2 percent, largely on the strength of higher-priced gasoline, hardware, and plumbing and heating equipment. Sales were unchanged in January.

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Faster inventory growth could lead economists to slightly alter their forecasts for broader economic growth in the January-March quarter.

Still, wholesale inventories are growing more slowly than they did at the end of last year, said Steven Wood, at Insight Economics.

Economists are forecasting first-quarter growth at an annual rate of 2 percent, down from the 3 percent annual rate in the January-March quarter.

Businesses slashed inventories last summer out of fear the economy was on the verge of another recession. When that didn’t happen, many stepped up restocking at the end of last year. Inventories at the wholesale level grew 1.6 percent in the final three months of last year.

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