By PAMELA SAMPSONBANGKOK (AP) â¿¿ Good news about the U.S. economy, including strong auto sales, helped boost Asian stock markets Thursday. A Federal Reserve survey released Wednesday showed that all 12 of the Fed's districts reported modest to moderate economic growth from July through late August. More good news came from the auto industry: General Motors and other carmakers posted strong sales in August, giving the industry its best month in six years. That data comes on top of the Institute for Supply Management's report, released Tuesday, that said U.S. factory production rose in August at the fastest pace in two years. Japan's Nikkei 225 index was marginally higher at 13,060.52. Hong Kong's Hang Seng gained 0.9 percent to 22,531.24. South Korea's Kospi advanced 1 percent to 1,950.62. Benchmarks in Singapore, Taiwan and Indonesia also rose. Australia's S&P/ASX 200 fell 0.4 percent to 5,143.70. Benchmarks in the Philippines and New Zealand were also lower. Investors were also looking ahead to Friday, when the U.S. jobs report for August will be released. Economists expect that the U.S. created 177,000 jobs last month and that the unemployment rate held steady at 7.4 percent, according to financial data provider FactSet. Friday's jobs report is the last major 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. "In any event, consensus for September tapering appears to be steamrolling forward. And the Fed might get some help this month with the payrolls to boot," said analysts at DBS Bank Ltd. in Singapore. Wall Street stocks rose Wednesday on good economic news. The Dow Jones industrial average gained 0.7 percent to close at 14,930.87. The Standard & Poor's 500 rose 0.8 percent to 1,653.08. The Nasdaq composite gained 1 percent to 3,649.04.
Benchmark crude for October delivery was up 22 cents at $107.45 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract fell $1.31 to close at $107.23 a barrel on the Nymex on Wednesday.In currencies, the euro fell to $1.3192 from $1.3199 late Tuesday. The dollar fell to 99.70 yen from 99.76 yen. ___ Follow Pamela Sampson on Twitter at http://twitter.com/pamelasampson