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Wholesale Inventories Rose Less than Expected, Up 0.2%

Inventories on U.S. wholesalers' shelves rose by a smaller-than-expected 0.2 percent in July, as auto and electrical goods inventories declined, the weakest inventory rise since a December decline, a Commerce Department report showed on Friday.

Inventories rose to $398.8 billion in July. Analysts polled by Reuters were expecting a 0.4 percent rise in wholesale inventories.

Sales rose 0.1 percent to $359.1 billion, the weakest showing since January, as gains in auto and furniture sales offset declines in lumber and computer equipment sales.

Lumber sales were off 3.2 percent, and fell 12.1 percent from July 2006, a reflection of declines in the housing market.

The stock-to-sales ratio, a measure of how long it would take to deplete stocks at the current sales pace, held steady at 1.11, matching the lowest on record.

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