U.S. wholesale retailers increased their inventories by 0.9 percent in February as demand increased, beating expectations and showing acceleration in the sector, the Commerce Department said Tuesday.

The increase, to a seasonally adjusted $479 billion, was higher than an upwardly revised 0.6 percent rise in January, and it beat a 0.5 percent rise forecast by economists polled by Dow Jones Newswires.

Sellers had 1.17 months of supply, unchanged from the previous four months.

Overall sales by wholesalers totaled nearly $409.4 billion in February, up 1.2 percent from the preceding month.

Stockpiles of durable goods, including hardware and machinery, rose 0.5 percent, while sales in the category were up 0.9 percent. For automobiles, sales increased 0.2 percent while inventory fell 0.9 percent.

Sales of non-durable goods rose 1.4. Petroleum stockpiles were up 5.6 percent and sales rose 3.9 percent, likely affected by higher prices.

The U.S. economy, the world's largest, grew by an annual rate of 3 percent in the fourth quarter, more than the 1.8 percent in the third quarter, the Commerce Department said in March. But that positive news was tempered by last Friday's Labor Department report that only 120,000 non-farm jobs were added last month, far below analysts' estimates.