Businesses added to their stockpiles for a 15th straight month in March while their sales rose for a ninth consecutive month, suggesting factory production will remain strong in coming months.
The Commerce Department says that businesses increased inventories 1 percent in March while sales rose an even larger 2.2 percent, the biggest sales gain in a year.
The rise in inventories pushed total stockpiles to $1.48 trillion. That is a level that economists consider to be normal for this stage of the recovery. It is 12.1 percent higher than the recent low of $1.32 trillion reached in September 2009.
Healthy gains in sales and inventory restocking should translate into strong orders to U.S. factories in coming months, spurring further gains in industrial production and manufacturing employment.