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US Wholesale Inventories Rise Faster than Forecast in February

US wholesale inventories rose faster than forecast in February and were revised up in January, a sign businesses were restocking their shelves at a faster rate after the holiday season.

Wholesale inventories climbed 0.3 percent to $574 billion at the end of February, following an upwardly revised gain of 0.4 percent in January, the Commerce Department reported on Thursday. A median estimate of economists called for an increase of 0.2 percent.

Compared to February 2014, wholesale inventories were up 6.1 percent.

Wholesale inventories gauge how quickly wholesale businesses are restocking their shelves. The monthly indicator is used to calculate gross domestic product. Faster restocking boosts economic growth because it reflects stronger demand for goods.

Wholesale sales declined 0.2 percent to $444.2 billion. Compared to February 2014, wholesale sales were down 1.5 percent. At the current sales pace, it would take 1.29 months for wholesalers to clear existing inventory.

The US economy hit a rough patch in the first quarter, as severe winter weather swept through much of the country. Economists forecast that severe weather shaved as much as 0.7 percentage point off Q1 GDP growth. Durable goods orders, consumer spending and manufacturing activity all stumbled in the first quarter, mirroring the disastrous first quarter of 2014, which saw GDP contract 2.9 percent annually.

The Commerce Department will release its first and least reliable estimate of Q1 GDP on April 29.

In a separate report on Thursday the Labor Department said initial jobless claims rose less than forecast last week. The number of Americans filing for first-time unemployment benefits increased by 14,000 to a seasonally adjusted 281,000 in the week ended April 4. The four-week average for jobless claims declined by 3,000 to 282,250, the lowest level since mid-2000.

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