WASHINGTON – U.S. companies restocked their store shelves and warehouses at a slower pace in December, a sign of caution as sales weakened. Slower restocking was a major drag on the economy in the final three months of last year.
The Commerce Department says business inventories ticked up 0.1 percent in December from November, below the 0.2 percent pace the previous month and the smallest increase since last June.
Total sales for wholesalers, retailers and manufacturers increased only 0.3 percent, down from a 0.9 percent clip in November.
Slower rebuilding of inventories means factories produced less, lowering overall economic output.
One silver lining: if sales keep growing, companies may have to restock more quickly in the January-March quarter, boosting growth. A separate report Wednesday showed retail spending ticked up in January.