WASHINGTON (AP) - U.S. businesses boosted their stockpiles slightly in December, as sales dropped sharply. This combination has stoked anxieties about weakening economic growth.

WASHINGTON (AP) U.S. businesses boosted their stockpiles slightly in December, as sales dropped sharply. This combination has stoked anxieties about weakening economic growth.

The Commerce Department says December business inventories rose 0.1 percent, after having slipped 0.1 percent in November. Both manufacturers and retailers which were responding to holiday shopping increased their stockpiles.

But sales fell 0.6 percent in December, with a stiff 1.4 percent drop in manufacturer revenues accounting for much of the drop.

Overall business sales fell 2.4 percent last year to $15.8 billion, the first decline since the recession in 2009.

The figures suggest that businesses are struggling to sell off their inventories, a potential sign of lower demand and excess supply that signals slowing growth. Still, strong hiring levels have warded off fears of a downturn.