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Wholesale Sales Plunge Most Since March 2009

Shannon Faulk | Blend Images | Getty Images

U.S. wholesale inventories rose in March, fueled by increased stocks of cars and machinery which have provided support for economic growth early in the year, but wholesale sales posted the biggest fall in four years.

The Commerce Department said on Thursday wholesale inventories rose 0.4 percent, just above the median forecast in a Reuters poll for a 0.3 percent gain.

(Click here to track the U.S. stock market reaction to this economic release.)

The increase in inventories could reinforce the view that the pace of economic growth picked up in the first three months of the year, bolstered by businesses restocking their shelves.

In March, inventories of cars rose 1.2 percent, as did stocks of machinery.

Sales by wholesalers, however, unexpectedly fell in March, down 1.6 percent. It was the biggest drop in four years and confounded economists' expectations for a 0.1 percent increase.

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