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U.S. wholesalers cut their inventories and reported lower sales for the third straight month in December

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WASHINGTON — U.S. wholesale businesses cut their stockpiles and registered lower sales for the third straight month in December.

The Commerce Department said Tuesday wholesale inventories fell 0.1 percent in December after dropping 0.4 percent in November and 0.3 percent in October. Sales fell 0.3 percent in December after sliding 1.3 percent in November and 0.2 percent in October.

Falling inventories are a drag on economic growth. From October through December, businesses cut spending on stockpiles to trim unwanted inventories. That effort cut growth by 0.5 percentage points in the last three months of 2015, a period in which the economy grew at a weak 0.7 percent annual rate.

Some economists are optimistic that the inventory cutbacks are nearing an end, and businesses will soon begin to restock empty shelves.

PHOTO: FILE - In this June 4, 2015, file photo, a woman reaches for a bag of apples in the produce section of a Wal-Mart Supercenter store in Springdale, Ark. On Tuesday, Feb. 9, 2016, the Commerce Department issues its December report on wholesale stockpiles. (AP Photo/Danny Johnston, File)
FILE - In this June 4, 2015, file photo, a woman reaches for a bag of apples in the produce section of a Wal-Mart Supercenter store in Springdale, Ark. On Tuesday, Feb. 9, 2016, the Commerce Department issues its December report on wholesale stockpiles. (AP Photo/Danny Johnston, File)

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