U.S. business inventories rose for the first time in a year in January, and sales rose too, the government said Thursday.

Stocks at U.S. businesses climbed 0.2 percent in January after a revised drop of 0.5 percent in December, the first climb since January 2001. Analysts polled by Reuters had forecast inventories would thin by 0.3 percent.

Total business sales rose 1.1 percent on the month after posting an unchanged outcome in December. Sales at manufacturers rose 2.0 percent.

The stock-to-sales ratio -- the time it would take to deplete inventories at their current pace -- fell to 1.38 months from December's 1.39 months.

"It's much stronger than people thought -- I personally think that either January or February will mark the low point for the economy," said Mark Vitner of Wachovia Securities.

Inventories at manufacturers fell 0.6 percent while stocks at car dealers rose 3.3 percent. Retail inventories also rose 1.4 percent.