WASHINGTON, Feb 14 (Reuters) - U.S. business inventories increased a bit more than expected in December, lifted by solid gains in stocks at manufacturers and wholesalers.
The Commerce Department said on Wednesday that business inventories rose 0.4 percent after a similar gain in November.
Economists polled by Reuters had forecast inventories, a key component of gross domestic product, rising 0.3 percent in December. Retail inventories rose 0.2 percent in December as previously reported in an advance report last month. Retail inventories gained 0.2 percent in November.
Motor vehicle inventories fell 0.4 percent as previously reported after decreasing 0.2 percent in November. Retail inventories excluding autos, which go into the calculation of GDP, increased 0.5 percent instead of 0.6 percent as reported last month. They rose 0.4 percent in November.
The government estimated last month that inventory investment subtracted 0.67 percentage point from GDP growth in the fourth quarter. The economy grew at a 2.6 percent annualized growth pace in the final three months of 2017.
Manufacturing inventories increased 0.5 percent in December and stocks at wholesalers rose 0.4 percent.
Business sales increased 0.6 percent in December after jumping 1.4 percent in November. At December’s sales pace, it would take 1.33 months for businesses to clear shelves, unchanged from November.
Reporting by Lucia Mutikani; Editing by Paul Simao