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By The Associated Press
The Associated Press
Wednesday, March 9, 2011; 6:11 PM

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Wholesale inventories and sales rise in January

Businesses at the wholesale level added to their stockpiles in January and their sales jumped by the largest amount in 14 months. But the spike in sales was partially influenced by rising oil prices.

Wholesale inventories rose 1.1 percent in January, the Commerce Department said Wednesday. It was the 12th gain in 13 months.

Sales at the wholesale level rose for the seventh straight month. The 3.4 percent increase was the largest gain since November 2009.

Still, a 10.6 percent rise in demand for petroleum helped drive the jump in sales, reflecting higher oil and gas prices.

The rise in inventories left stockpiles at $436.9 billion. That's 13.1 percent higher than the low reached in September 2009, when companies were slashing their stockpiles to keep costs under control during the recession.

Greater sales should encourage businesses to keep restocking their shelves and drive factory production in the months ahead.

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Mortgage applications spike; home sales still weak

The number of people applying for a mortgage jumped last week. But analysts cautioned that the increase was likely driven by investors, not first-time homebuyers who are needed to help housing markets recover.

The Mortgage Bankers Association says its overall mortgage application index rose 16.1 percent from the previous week, the biggest jump since June. But the index is still far off where it was last spring and summer following four straight months of declines.


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© 2011 The Associated Press

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