WASHINGTON — 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.
Business stockpiles increased only 0.1 percent in February, the Commerce Department said today. 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 today showed retail sales fell 0.4 percent 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.