* Inventories match forecast with 0.5 pct August rise
* Sales ahead of projections, snap declining streak
* Views on impact for third-quarter U.S. GDP mixed
(Updates with analyst reaction)
WASHINGTON, Oct 10 (Reuters) - U.S. wholesale inventoriesrose as expected in August while sales at wholesalers posted thefirst gain after three consecutive months of decline, accordingto government data released on Wednesday.
Total wholesale inventories advanced 0.5 percent to $487.5billion, the Commerce Department said. Year-over-year,inventories were up 5.3 percent from August 2011.
Economists polled by Reuters had expected stocks of unsoldgoods at U.S. wholesalers to rise 0.5 percent after advancing by0.6 percent in July, which was revised down from a previouslyreported 0.7 percent gain.
"Despite the uptick in sales, companies want to staycautious with their inventories, capital spending and hirings.They have slowed their pace of inventory accumulation," saidYelena Shulyatyeva, U.S. economist at BNP Paribas in New York.
In August, automobile inventories were unchanged andcomputer equipment stocks fell 5.1 percent, while machineryincreased 1.7 percent.
Graphic-U.S. wholesale inventories:
Inventories are a key element in the government's measure of
changes in gross domestic product and can highlight underlyingstrength or weakness in U.S. growth, which notched a 1.3 percentannual pace in the second quarter.
"This might take a bit away from overall economic growth ascompanies want to stay cautious ahead of the Presidentialelection," she said. Americans vote on Nov. 6 and polls showPresident Barack Obama and his Republican challenger, MittRomney, tied in a close race for the White House.
However, other economists thought the data supported aslight improvement in the outlook for the third quarter, withBarclays in New York upping their tracking estimate of GDP byone tenth of a percentage point to a 2.1 percent annual pace.
The advance estimate of third-quarter U.S. GDP is due onOct. 26.
"Today's wholesale sector report offered an encouraging signthat demand is beginning to rebound," said Barclays' PeterNewland, who also cited the better tone on sales.
Sales at wholesalers rose 0.9 percent, the first increasesince April. Economists had expected sales to be up by 0.5percent.
Sales gains in August were widespread, with furniture up by1.1 percent and machinery advancing 0.5 percent. Petroleum salesrose 5.6 percent and auto sales were up by 2 percent.
At August's sales pace it would take 1.20 months to clearshelves, down slightly from 1.21 months in July.
(Reporting by Alister Bull, Additional reporting by RichardLeong in New York; Editing by Andrea Ricci)
Keywords: USA ECONOMY/WHOLESALE