) -- Business inventory data in October surprised to the upside, breaking a streak of 13 consecutive months of declines and hinting that the year-long trend of liquidating stock shelves may be finally slowing.

Business inventories tracked higher by 0.2% in October after falling by a revised 0.5% in September, according to a Commerce Department report released Friday. Analysts had expected inventories to be cut again, as consensus estimates forecast inventories to slide by 0.2%, according to


Total sales also jumped by 1.1% in the month.

The news piggy-backed on a report earlier in the week that also surprised the Street. The data revealed that inventories in the wholesale segment also broke a streak of month-to-month declines dating back to August 2008 to rise by 0.3%. Wholesale sales also climbed by 1.2%.

Friday's report also showed that manufacturing inventories ticked higher by 0.4%.

Retail inventories held flat in October after climbing by a revised 0.5% in the prior month. A jump in inventories for home furnishing and electronic wares helped offset a drop in clothing.

Of course, market observers are closely watching sales figures, as improvement will translate into restocked inventories and expanded production throughout the economy. Already, investors have been cheering morning news that

retail sales jumped by 1.3% in November, sending stocks higher during the session.


S&P Retail Index

and the

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ETF were recently bid higher by 0.9% each. Shares of


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Home Depot

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were adding 0.5%, 0.9% and 1%, respectively.

Economists were also paying attention to Friday's business inventory figures, as the movement to restock shelves bodes well for a brighter fourth-quarter gross domestic product growth rate.

-- Written by Sung Moss in New York