WASHINGTON — Business inventories were up 0.4% to $1,550.5 billion in December, while sales rose 0.7% to $1,230.0 billion, the Commerce Department reported Tuesday.

The December gain in inventories followed an unrevised 0.3% gain in November and was lower than the median 0.5% increase estimated by economists polled by Thomson Reuters.

Inventories were up 7.7% from December 2010.

The 0.7% gain in sales in December followed a revised 0.4% increase in November and was 8.9% better than the December 2010 level.

The total business inventories-sales ratio based on seasonally adjusted data at the end of December was 1.26.

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