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Sep 4, 2013 12:25 PM by AP, PHOTO: MGN ONLINE

Stocks move higher as auto sales rise

NEW YORK (AP) - A jump in U.S. auto sales drove the stock market higher Wednesday.

Shares of U.S. automakers rose sharply after the companies reported strong sales gains in August, leading the industry toward its best month in six years.

Investors were also scrutinizing President Barack Obama's drive to win support in Congress for a military strike on Syria.

The Dow Jones industrial average rose 112 points, or 0.8 percent, to 14,946 as of 12 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time.

The Standard & Poor's 500 index rose 14 points, or 0.9 percent, to 1,654 and the Nasdaq composite was up 36 points, or 1 percent, to 3,649.

On Wednesday, General Motors said its sales rose 15 percent last month, while Chrysler and Ford each reported 12 percent gains. Toyota posted the biggest increase as sales rose nearly 23 percent over August of last year.

GM gained $1.05, or 3 percent, to $35.20 and Ford rose 55 cents, or 3 percent, to $16.89.

Technology companies also rose. Apple gained $11.13, or 2 percent, to $499.81 after Cantor Fitzgerald initiated coverage of the company with a "buy" rating. On Tuesday, Apple announced an event for next week amid speculation that it may debut new colors for the latest iPhone.

In Washington, national security aides to President Barack Obama were meeting to push for strikes against Syrian President Bashar Assad's regime in retaliation for what the administration says was a deadly sarin gas attack in that country's civil war. Obama has received the endorsement of House Speaker John Boehner as well as key Senate Republicans.

A vote on the strikes could come next week.

Investors are also looking ahead to Friday, when the August jobs report will be released. Economists polled by FactSet expect that the U.S. created 177,000 jobs last month and that the unemployment rate held steady at 7.4 percent.

Friday's jobs report is the last important piece of economic data the Federal Reserve will have to work with before the central bank decides whether or not to pull back on its massive bond-buying program. That program has kept interest rates abnormally low. While most investors believe the Fed will begin to pull back, the question has become when and how much.

"Even if the August employment figures were weaker than expected, we think the odds would likely still favor a September (pullback), just of a smaller magnitude," economists with the investment bank RBS wrote in a note to investors.

The yield on the 10-year Treasury note edged up to 2.87 percent from 2.86 percent late Tuesday. The price of crude oil fell 88 cents to $107.67 a barrel and gold fell $22 to $1,390 an ounce.

Among other stocks making big moves:

- Dollar General jumped $2.50, or 4.6 percent, to $56.38 after the discount store chain reported an adjusted quarterly profit of 77 per share, beating Wall Street analysts' estimates of 74 cents per share.

- Retailer Francesca's Holdings plunged after the company reported results that fell short of Wall Street's estimates and cut its forecast for full-year earnings, citing poor customer traffic. The stock sank $6, or 25 percent, to $18.08.

- Ciena, a developer of high-speed networking technology, surged $2.33, or 11 percent, to $23 after it reported adjusted earnings that were far higher than Wall Street was expecting. Its revenue rose sharply and its restructuring costs declined.

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