WASHINGTON - Business inventories were up 0.3% to $1,578.4 billion in May, while sales fell 0.1% to $1,245.2 billion, the Commerce Department reported Monday.

The May inventory gain followed a revised 0.3% gain in April, originally reported as a 0.4% advance. The increase slightly outperformed the expectations of economists polled by Thomson Reuters, who predicted a 0.2% rise. Inventories jumped 5.2% compared to May 2011.

Excluding motor vehicles, inventories rose 0.6% over the previous month.

The 0.1% decrease in May sales followed a revised 0.1% decline in April, originally reported as a 0.2% increase. The May figure was 5.1% better than sales in May 2011.

The total business inventories/sales ratio based on seasonally adjusted data at the end of May was 1.27, a sliver above the 1.26 ratio of the previous month and he same as the May 2011 ratio.

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