US businesses reduced their stockpiles in November, as sales also slipped



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WASHINGTON — U.S. businesses reduced their stockpiles in November, as sales also slipped. The decline in inventories among manufacturers and merchant wholesalers could fan worries about economic growth slowing at the end of 2015.

November business inventories fell 0.2 percent, after having declined 0.1 percent in October, the Commerce Department said Friday. Sales dropped 0.2 percent in November following a 0.3 percent setback in October.

Manufacturing — hit hard by low oil prices and a strong dollar — appears to be the center of the weakness. Over the past year, the sector's inventories have slid 2.3 percent and sales have tumbled 3.9 percent. The report show rising sales and inventories for retailers in November, but a separate government report out Friday showed retail sales slumping in December.

Economists are already projecting slower growth for the final three months of 2015, as struggles in China, Brazil and Europe have limited the capacity of U.S. economy to expand.

The Atlanta Federal Reserve has forecast that growth was an annualized 0.8 percent in the October-December quarter, while the private Macroeconomic Advisers estimates it will be 0.5 percent. This would be a slowdown from annualized growth of 2 percent in the third quarter and 3.9 percent in the second quarter.

In a separate report, the Federal Reserve said that manufacturing production dipped 0.1 percent in December after falling 0.1 percent in November.

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