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WASHINGTON (AP) -- Inventories held by wholesalers rose for a fifth consecutive month in May but sales fell for the first time in more than a year, sending a mixed signal about the strength of the recovery.

The Commerce Department says wholesale inventories rose 0.5 percent in May but sales dropped by 0.3 percent. It was the first decline for sales since March of 2009.

The May sales decline is the latest sign that the economic recovery could be losing momentum as it enters the second half of this year. Weakness in sales could discourage businesses from boosting their orders. That would translate into a slowdown in factory production.

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