Businesses Add to Inventories as Sales Rise

MARTIN CRUTSINGER | AP Economics Writer

WASHINGTON (AP) – Businesses added to their stockpiles for a 12th consecutive month in December, suggesting further growth at U.S. factories that could lead to more hiring.

Inventories rose 0.8 percent in December, the Commerce Department reported Tuesday. Businesses also saw another solid increase in demand with total business sales rising 1.1 percent in December.

A full year of increases pushed the value of businesses' stockpiles to $1.44 trillion in December. That's a level that economists consider to be healthy. It was 8.7 percent higher than the recent low of $1.32 trillion reached in September 2009.

Economists believe inventories will keep rising as long as sales remain strong and businesses have confidence that the demand will continue. That should boost demand at U.S. factories, and ultimately lead to more jobs.

For December, manufacturing inventories grew 1.1 percent, wholesale business stockpiles rose 1 percent, and retail inventories increased 0.4 percent.

The biggest increases at the retail level came at specialty clothing stores and general merchandise stores, a category that includes department stores and big chains such as Wal-Mart and Target.

Sales during December were up for all levels of business. They were led by a 2 percent surge in sales by manufacturers. A separate report Tuesday said that retail sales rose again in January.

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.