U.S. businesses added to their stockpiles by a modest amount in November even though sales were weak for a fourth consecutive month.
The Commerce Department says businesses increased stockpiles by 0.2 percent in November, matching the increase in October. Total business sales fell 0.2 percent in November following a 0.3 percent drop in October. A separate report Friday says that retail sales declined again in December.
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While businesses could start cutting back on their stockpiling if sales don't improve, economists remain optimistic. They are expecting a rebound in demand in coming months, given the strong gains in employment and a big drop in gas prices, which means people have more money to spend on other items.