STOCKING UP: Wholesale businesses increased their stockpiles by 1 percent in December as wholesale sales rose 1.3 percent, the best showing in nine months.
THE DETAILS: The rise in stockpiles was led by a 2.8 percent jump in auto inventories. Auto sales at the wholesale level climbed 3.9 percent in December.
THE OUTLOOK: The gains are expected to slow in coming months, a development that could curb overall economic growth. Strong inventory growth was a major factor boosting economic growth in the final three months of 2011. Companies tend to build their inventories when they expect stronger sales.