Wholesale businesses increased their stockpiles in January although sales fell for the first time in eight months.
The Commerce Department says inventories at the wholesale level increased 0.4 percent in January following an even larger 1.1 percent gain in December.
Sales dipped a slight 0.1 percent, the first drop since a 0.3 percent fall last May. Sales had risen a solid 1.4 percent in December.
The inventory gain pushed stockpiles to $475.5 billion in January, up 24 percent from a low hit in September 2009.
Business rebuilding of inventories has been a major driver in economic growth so far in the recovery. But economists believe inventory rebuilding will slow in the January-March quarter, a development expected to temporarily dampen growth.