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US businesses increased stockpiles more slowly in February, a sign they expected weaker sales

U.S. companies restocked their shelves at a much slower pace in February than January, a sign they expected consumer and business spending to weaken.

The Commerce Department says business stockpiles increased only 0.1 percent in February. That's the smallest gain since June and down from a 0.9 percent increase in January, which was revised slightly lower.

Total business sales rose at a healthy 1.2 percent pace in February, mostly because retail sales grew. But a separate report Friday showed retail sales fell in March.

Restocking helps drive economic growth. When companies order more goods, factory output increases. Economists had expected a bigger gain in stockpiles in February, so the lackluster increase could lead some to pare back their economic growth forecasts for the January-March quarter.

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