US business stockpiles rose 0.3 percent in September; sales unchanged

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WASHINGTON — U.S. businesses boosted their stockpiles in September by the largest amount in three months, while sales were flat.

Businesses increased their inventories 0.3 percent in September following a modest 0.1 percent rise in August, the Commerce Department reported Friday. It was the biggest gain since a 0.7 percent rise in June.

Sales were unchanged in September after a 0.6 percent drop in August.

A major effort to work down an overhang of unsold inventories was a big drag on the economy in the summer. That shaved 1.4 percentage points from overall growth as measured by the gross domestic product, which slowed to a modest gain of 1.5 percent.

GDP growth in the July-September quarter was less than half the 3.9 percent growth rate in the previous three-month period.

Economists are looking for growth to accelerate in the current quarter. Strong employment gains are expected to boost consumer spending, prompting businesses to resume restocking their shelves.

The government reported last week that that businesses created 271,000 jobs in October, the largest amount all year, pushing the unemployment rate down to 5 percent.

Friday's inventory report showed that stockpiles held by retailers rose 0.8 percent in September, with wholesale inventories up 0.5 percent. Manufacturing stockpiles fell by 0.4 percent.

A separate report Friday showed that retail sales rose a tiny 0.1 percent in October, a modest gain that was held back by lower gasoline costs.

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