Business Inventories Increase 0.8% in December

U.S. business inventories rose slightly more than expected in December as the pace of sales slowed moderately from the prior month, a government report showed Tuesday.

The Commerce Department said inventories increased 0.8% to $1.44 trillion, the highest since January 2009, after increasing by an upwardly revised 0.4% in November.

Economists polled by Reuters had forecast inventories rising 0.7% after a previously reported 0.2% increase in November.

Inventories are a key component of gross domestic product changes. The pace of inventory accumulation slowed sharply in the fourth quarter to subtract from GDP growth for the first time since the economic recovery started in the second half of 2009.

Business sales increased 1.1% to $1.15 trillion in December, the highest since September 2008, after rising 1.4% the prior month.

The sales pace left the inventory-to-sales-ratio, which measures how long it would take to clear shelves at the current sales pace, unchanged at 1.25 months.