US business stockpiles likely showed modest increase in December

MarketsAssociated Press

The Commerce Department reports on December business stockpiles Thursday at 10 a.m. Eastern.

STOCKPILES HIGHER: The expectation is that stockpiles at all levels of business rose 0.2 percent in December, according to a survey of economists by data firm FactSet.

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INVENTORIES AND SALES: In November, U.S. businesses added to their stockpiles by a modest amount even though sales were lackluster for a fourth straight month.

A report earlier this week showed that stockpiles held by wholesale businesses edged up 0.1 percent in December, the smallest increase in 17 months.

The deceleration in inventory growth could be a reaction by businesses to slowing sales. Economists, however, remain optimistic that sales will rebound in 2015 and that businesses will replenish those inventories in response. That would reinvigorate factory production and boost overall economic growth.

Optimism about sales reflects strong gains in employment, which should power consumer spending in coming months.

Employers added 257,000 jobs in January, capping the most robust three-month pace of hiring in 17 years.