Inventories at U.S. wholesalers rose by a slightly larger-than-expected 0.5 percent in August, Commerce Department (search) data showed on Friday, as stockpiles of petroleum, alcohol and paper climbed.

Wall Street analysts had forecast a 0.3 percent advance in stocks after an upwardly revised 0.1 percent gain in July. July's measure had initially been reported as a 0.1 percent decline.

The Commerce Department said it had not been able to quantify the impact of Hurricane Katrina (search) on the data, but noted the affected areas accounted for only a minimal share of national wholesale activity.

Inventories of durable goods (search) — products meant to last three or more years — expanded 0.1 percent with gains in furniture and machinery stocks offset by falls in automobiles, metals and electrical goods.

Auto inventories declined 1.1 percent as sales surged 5.0 percent. The auto inventories-to-sales ratio, a gauge of how long it would take to empty stocks at the current pace of sales, fell to 1.30 months from July's 1.38.

Inventories for non-durable items increased 1.2 percent as petroleum stocks jumped 5.6 percent while alcohol gained 4.0 percent.

Sales at wholesalers rose 1.3 percent in August after a 0.5 percent advance the previous month. The overall wholesale inventories-to-sales ratio shrank slightly to 1.17 months from 1.18 months in July.