UPDATE 2-AutoNation profit down, but improving market seen


* EPS excluding items 29 cts vs. Wall St view 25 cts * Sees gradual improvement in auto sales in second half * No. 1 auto dealership chain plans to increase inventory * Shares down 2 pct (Adds detail from conference call, analyst comment, byline) By Kevin Krolicki DETROIT, July 31 (Reuters) - Top U.S. auto dealer chain AutoNation Inc posted a 29 percent drop in quarterly earnings, but forecast an improving market after slashing inventory costs and seeing a sharp gain in July sales. ...

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