U.S. manufacturing and trading companies\' inventories in April rose 0.3 percent from March, with their sales posting a slight decline, the Department of Commerce said Thursday. The April inventory figure of 1.657 trillion U.S. dollars also represented a 4.2 percent increase from a year earlier, said the department. The total business inventories-to-sales ratio, a figure measuring the time span of the inventories being sold, stood at 1.31 by the end of April, higher than the reading of 1.27 one year earlier. In addition, combined sales by manufacturers, wholesalers and retailers edged down 0.1 percent in April from the prior month to 1.268 trillion dollars, said the department. It is normally interpreted as a positive sign of economy when businesses increase their inventories, but business inventories-to-sales ratio was far from the pre-recession high of nearly 1.5 as business owners are still cautious about the economic outlook.