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Wall Street posts strong gains on auto sales

NEW YORK Stocks finished higher on Wall Street after automakers reported strong sales gains. Investors apparently shrugged off worries about war in the Mideast, concerns which had been weighing on markets for several sessions.

The Dow Jones industrial average rose 96 points, or 0.7 percent, to close at 14,930 points Wednesday.

The Standard & Poor's 500 index rose 13 points, or 0.8 percent, to 1,653 and the Nasdaq composite rose 36 points, or 1 percent, to 3,649.

General Motorsand Ford both rose sharply after reporting big sales increases last month. Chrysleralso reported strong sales. August was the best month for auto sales in six years.

Technology companies also climbed. Apple gained $10.11, or 2 percent, to $499.698 after Cantor Fitzgerald initiated coverage of the company with a "buy" rating.

Two stocks rose for every one that fell on the New York Stock Exchange. Trading volume was about average at 3.2 billion shares.

Investors also were heartened by the new Beige Book survey released by the Federal Reserve, which showed that economic growth held steady across the United States from July through late August.

The survey showed all 12 of the Fed's regional banking districts reported modest to moderate growth, roughly the same as the Fed's previous survey of those districts from late May through early July.

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