Here's a glance at some of the items making news this afternoon.

Good news for automakers
(NYSE: F), GM (NYSE: GM), Volkswagen, and Toyota are among the automakers joining Chrysler in reporting double-digit percentage gains in sales from August 2011 to August 2012, according to information posted on Automotive News. Ford reported a 13% gain, while GM reported a 10% bump.

Business Insider reports that sales are hitting their highest levels since the Cash for Clunkers program expired in 2009.

Manufacturing activity, construction spending dip
The Institute for Supply Management reported a decrease in manufacturing activity in August. The national PMI of 49.6% was down 0.2 percentage points from July's reading, marking the third consecutive month of contraction in the manufacturing sector. This is also the lowest PMI reading since July 2009. Check out this Reuters report for insight into the numbers.

Meanwhile, construction spending dropped 0.9% from June to July, according to a Commerce Department report, to a seasonally adjusted $834.4 billion. However, year-over-year construction spending was up 9.3% in July, Fox Business reported. Check out the full story here.

Coal woes
CONSOL Energy (NYSE: CNX) announced that it will temporarily idle its Buchanan mine in southwestern Virginia and at least part of its Amonate Mining Complex in southern West Virginia in response to diminished global demand for steel. The mines produce coal used in steelmaking. CONSOL said it was responding to weak market conditions throughout its export markets in Asia, Europe, and South America. The idlings are expected to last 30 to 60 days.

Read this Associated Press writeup for more information.