Business inventories were down 1.1% and sales levels fell 1.0% in January, according to Commerce Department data released yesterday.

Business inventories slid to $1.440 billion following a revised 1.6% decline to $1.456 billion in December, originally reported as a 1.3% decrease to $1.461 billion. Thomson Reuters had projected that business inventories would be off 1.0% in the month. Overall inventories were 1.5% below the January 2008 level, according to Commerce.

Stocks of autos — by far the largest component of inventories — fell 4.4% in January, following December’s 2.1% decrease. The category is down 10.7% from the previous January.

Meanwhile, the 1.0% decrease in overall business sales brought the category to $1.004 billion. The January figure followed a revised 3.4% decrease to $1.015 billion in December, originally reported as a 3.2% drop to $1.017 billion.

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