Analysts polled by Reuters had expected inventories to rise 0.5 percent and sales to surge 1 percent. November's inventories rise was revised up to 1.6 percent from the previously reported 1.5 percent, and the increase in sales was revised up to 3.6 percent from 3.3 percent.
Last month, the Commerce Department reported that the U.S. economy grew at a 5.7 percent rate in the fourth quarter, its fastest pace in more than six years, the result of companies drawing down their stocks more slowly.
But the lift that restocking inventories gave to the country's gross domestic product is expected to fade over time.
(Reporting by Lisa Lambert and Lucia Mutikani, Editing by Chizu Nomiyama)