U.S. business inventories were unexpectedly flat in January, while sales rose to their highest level since October 2008, government data showed on Friday.
The Commerce Department said inventories were unchanged after falling by a revised 0.3 percent in December, previously reported as a 0.2 percent drop.
Economists polled by Reuters had expected a 0.2 percent rise in January inventories.
Inventories are a key component of gross domestic product changes over the business cycle and a sharp slowdown in the pace of inventory liquidation handed the economy its fastest growth rate in six years in the fourth quarter.
Business sales rose 0.6 percent to $1.05 trillion in January following a 1.0 percent increase in December. The rise in sales left the inventory-to-sales-ratio, which measures how long it would take to clear shelves at the current sales pace, at 1.25 months' worth, the lowest since November 2007.
Manufacturers' inventories rose 0.2 percent in January after falling 0.2 percent the prior month. Inventories at retailers fell 0.1 percent after a 0.2 percent rise in December.
Retail motor vehicle and parts inventories rose 0.5 percent after falling 0.3 percent in December. Excluding autos, retail inventories fell 0.2 percent in January. Inventories at furniture, electronic and appliance stores fell 0.3 percent after a 0.2 percent gain the prior month.
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