WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. companies restocked their store shelves and warehouses at a steady pace in May, a sign they expect sales will remain solid in the months ahead.
Business stockpiles rose 0.5 percent in May, the Commerce Department said Tuesday. That was down slightly from a 0.6 percent gain in the previous month. April's increase was the highest in six months. Total business sales rose 0.4 percent, much lower than April's 0.8 percent gain.
Steady inventory rebuilding can bolster economic growth by increasing demand for manufactured goods and boosting factory production.
Economists generally were encouraged by the report.
"With two months of accumulating stockpiles, we are on track for inventories to boost growth in the second quarter," said Tim Quinlan, an economist at Wells Fargo Securities.
Still, sales need to remain healthy so that companies aren't stuck with unwanted inventories.
For May, inventories at the wholesale level climbed 0.5 percent, while inventories held by retailers ticked up just 0.2 percent. Stockpiles held by manufacturers rose 0.8 percent.
Businesses sharply cut back on restocking in the first three months of the year, a big reason the economy shrank at a 2.9 percent annual rate. That was the largest contraction since the first quarter of 2009, in the depths of the recession.
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