US wholesale stockpiles and sales break a losing streak

WASHINGTON – U.S. wholesale businesses increased their stockpiles and reported higher sales in March for the first time since September, the Commerce Department said Tuesday.

Inventories held by wholesalers rose 0.1 in March from February. And sales rose 0.7 per cent, the biggest monthly increase since April 2015.

Rising oil prices played a role in snapping the losing streak in sales and inventories. Petroleum sales shot up 13.5 per cent, the sharpest jump since February 2007, and petroleum inventories rose 3.3 per cent.

Still, the backdrop remains weak. The U.S. economy has been sluggish since late last year. Economic growth came in at a lacklustre 0.5 per cent annual pace from January through March and an unimpressive 1.4 per cent the final three months of 2015.

The economy has been hurt by weak growth around the world and by a strong dollar, which has made U.S. products more expensive overseas.