Business inventories were up 0.6% and sales levels fell 1.1% in February, according to Commerce Department data released yesterday.

Business inventories rose to $1.468 billion following an upwardly revised 0.9% gain in January, originally reported as a 0.8% rise. IFR Markets had projected that business inventories would be up 0.6% in the month. Overall inventories were 5.2% above the February 2007 level.

Stocks of autos — by far the largest component of inventories — grew 0.4% in February, following January’s 0.4% increase. The category is up 3.6% from the previous February.

Meanwhile, the 1.1% decrease in overall business sales brought the category to $1.143 billion. The February figure followed a downwardly revised 1.3% increase in January, originally reported as a 1.5% increase, and compared to IFR’s projected 1.5% decrease.

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