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US wholesale inventories up marginally

[WASHINGTON] US wholesale inventories barely rose in December, the latest suggestion that fourth-quarter growth could be revised lower.

The Commerce Department said on Tuesday wholesale inventories edged up 0.1 per cent as lower crude oil prices weighed on the value of petroleum stocks. Stocks at wholesalers had increased by an unrevised 0.8 per cent in November.

Economists polled by Reuters had forecast wholesale inventories rising 0.2 per cent in December.

Inventories are a key component of gross domestic product changes. The component that goes into the calculation of GDP - wholesale stocks excluding autos - nudged up 0.1 per cent.

The report, together with last week's data showing a 0.3 per cent fall in manufacturing inventories in December, suggested the boost to GDP growth from restocking in the fourth quarter was probably not as large as initially thought.

The government estimated last month that inventories added 0.8 percentage point to the economy's annualized 2.6 per cent growth pace in the fourth quarter.

Sales at wholesalers fell 0.4 per cent in December after a similar decline in November. At December's sales pace it would take 1.22 months to clear shelves, down from 1.21 months in November.