Business inventories were up 0.1% and sales levels rose 1.0% in March, according to Commerce Department data released yesterday.

Business inventories rose to $1.465 billion following a downwardly revised 0.5% gain in February, originally reported as a 0.6% rise. IFR Markets had projected that business inventories would be up 0.5% in the month. Overall inventories were 5.2% above the March 2007 level, according to Commerce.

Stocks of autos — by far the largest component of inventories — slid 0.9% in March following February’s 0.1% increase. The category is up 3.8% from the previous March.

Meanwhile, the 1.0% increase in overall business sales brought the category to $1.154 billion. The March figure followed a downwardly revised 1.0% increase in February, originally reported as a 1.1% decrease, and compared to IFR’s projected 1.0% increase.

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