U.S. Markets open in 6 hrs 29 mins

UK car sales rise annual 10.9 percent in August

LONDON (Reuters) - Car sales rose by an annual 10.9 percent in August, the 18th consecutive month of growth, though at a slightly slower pace than the previous month, the country's auto industry trade body said on Thursday.

Some 65,937 new cars were registered, down sharply from 162,000 in July - when sales grew by an annual 12.7 percent - as motorists waited for September's biannual change in number plates, which in Britain identify the year of registration.

"This is great news for an industry that has been carefully balancing supply with demand, and with the new plate change, growing consumer confidence and attractive packages, I think we'll be in for a good autumn," said Richard Lowe, head of retail & wholesale banking at Barclays.

Last month the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders revised up its forecast for total UK car sales this year to 2.216 million, 8.4 percent more than in 2012.

Car sales have risen robustly in Britain in contrast to the most of continental Europe, and picked up long before a broader resumption in consumer spending that has helped drive an unexpectedly strong economic recovery this year.

Europe's ailing car market grew in annual terms for only the second time this year in July.

Ford's Fiesta supermini was the top selling model in the UK in August, followed by General Motors's mid-sized Vauxhall Astra and Volkswagen's Golf.

(Reporting by David Milliken; Editing by Hugh Lawson)