U.S. companies restocked at a steady pace in February, suggesting businesses are more hopeful about sales.
The Commerce Department says business stockpiles rose a seasonally adjusted 0.6 percent. That's below January's upwardly revised gain of 0.8 percent.
The increase pushed stockpiles to $1.58 trillion, nearly 20 percent above the low hit in September 2009, just after the recession ended.
Restocking hasn't slowed at the start of the year as much as economists had expected, leading many to raise their forecasts for January-March economic growth.
Larger stockpiles require businesses to order more goods. That leads to more factory production, which boosts growth.
A healthier job market and warmer weather boosted retail sales in March, which should also contributed to stronger economic growth in the first quarter.