U.S. auto sales jumped 20 percent in August, with 1.28 million new cars and lights trucks purchased last month. This represents the strongest monthly pace in three years. The 2012 seasonally adjusted sales rate for August also rose to 14.53 million from 14.1 million in July. Low interest rates, ample inventories, attractive leases and healthy incentives are driving the market. Although the economic recovery remains sluggish, consumer sentiment improved slightly last month thanks to a growing belief that the housing market has bottomed. Experts say that improved confidence bodes well for auto sales, although high unemployment will continue to pressure sales in the long term. Kelley Blue Book reports that demand for compact, subcompact and hybrid cars has increased as consumers seek respite from rising fuel prices. Compact-car sales are expected to jump 31 percent from a year earlier while subcompact cars are expected to increase 42 percent. Mid-size car sales are projected to improve 24 percent while compact-crossover sales are expect to climb 38 percent. Meanwhile, sales of full-size pickup trucks are expected to rise 6.7 percent.