WASHINGTON — Business inventories rose 0.3% to $1.66 trillion in April, while sales fell 0.1% to $1.27 trillion, the Commerce Department reported Thursday.

The inventory advance followed a 0.1% decrease in March, originally reported as virtually unchanged. The April inventory figure matched the expectations of economists polled by Thomson Reuters, who predicted a median 0.3% gain.

On a year-over-year basis, inventories climbed 4.2% over the same month in 2012.

The April sales decrease followed a revised 1.2% drop in March that was originally reported as a 1.1% decrease, and marked the first back-to-back monthly sales declines since May and June 2012.

April sales remained 1.5% above the figure one year ago.

The total business inventories/sales ratio based on seasonally adjusted data at the end of April was 1.31, higher than the previous month's ratio of 1.30 and the 1.21 ratio in April 2012. The last time the inventories sales ratio was as large or larger was October 2009, when it was 1.32.

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