Business inventories were up 0.5% and sales levels rose 1.4% in April, according to Commerce Department data released yesterday.

Business inventories rose to $1.475 billion following an upwardly revised 0.2% gain in March, originally reported as a 0.1% rise. IFR Markets had projected that business inventories would be up 0.3% in the month. Overall inventories were 5.4% above the April 2007 level.

Stocks of autos — by far the largest component of inventories — slid 0.3% in April, following March’s 0.8% decrease. The category is up 2.9% from the previous April.

Meanwhile, the 1.4% increase in overall business sales brought the category to $1.178 billion. The April figure followed an upwardly revised 1.2% increase in March, originally reported as a 1.0% increase, and compared to IFR’s projected 1.8% increase.

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