) -- Businesses continued replenishing their shelves in May though at a more subdued pace than expected, the Commerce Department said Wednesday.
Business inventories rose 0.1%, marking the fifth month in a row that inventories have experienced an increase. The total landed a shade below forecasts, however, which called for a 0.2% increase, according to consensus forecasts provided by
. Inventories climbed up 0.4% in April.
But the report also showed business sales dipped into negative territory for the first time since last spring, sliding 0.9% in May. That news coincided with an earlier report from the government showing
retail sales dropping 0.5% in June.
Businesses swiftly shed their inventories during the deepest depths of the economic recession. But an economic rebound beginning at the end of 2009 was fueled mostly by managers' decisions to restore their inventories. Still, sluggish sales and more sullen inventory rebuilds of late may hint at a broadly slowing economy.
The major stock averages continued looking for a direction soon after the report, as inventors weighed a mix of economic data against better-than-expected earnings from
, among others.
--Written by Sung Moss in New York