WASHINGTON — Business inventories advanced 0.6% to $1,601.7 billion in August, while sales climbed 0.5% to $1,246.6 billion, the Commerce Department reported Monday.

The August inventory gain followed an unrevised 0.8% uptick in July. The increase slightly surpassed the expectations of economists polled by Thomson Reuters, who predicted a 0.5% rise. Inventories rose 5.3% over the same month in 2011.

The increase in August sales followed an unrevised 0.9% advance in July. August sales were 3.1% above sales in August 2011. Sales were the strongest since businesses totaled $1,246.6 billion in April.

The total business inventories/sales ratio based on seasonally adjusted data at the end of August was 1.28, the same as the previous month but above the 1.26 August 2011 ratio.

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