It's only been a day, but November on Wall Street is already looking a lot better than October.
Strong economic data and corporate news converged Thursday to give U.S. stocks their best day since mid-September. Positive signs about the job market and higher auto and retail sales reports pushed stock futures up before the market opened. The Dow Jones industrial average rose 100 points the first half hour of trading. At 10, two more strong reports came out and pushed the Dow up as much as 177 points. It fell back some, but held a steady gain for the rest of the day.
The Dow closed up 136.16 points, or 1 percent, at 13,232.62. It was the best day since Sept. 13.The Standard & Poor's 500 index rose 15.43 points, or 1.1 percent, to 1,427.59. The Nasdaq composite index added 42.83, or 1.4 percent, to 3,020.06. All three indexes fell in October, their first monthly losses since May. The 10 a.m. surge came after the Institute for Supply Management said factories are seeing more orders and increased production. The index has shown growth for the first two months of this quarter, an encouraging sign about the health of corporate America. Before that, manufacturing had decreased for three straight months. The Conference Board said Americans' confidence in the economy surged last month to the highest level in nearly five years. Many were encouraged by an improving job market, the group said. Traders watch manufacturing and consumer confidence because factories and consumers are crucial players in the economic recovery. Manufacturing lifted America out of recession, and the resurgent car industry has supported the economy during recent periods of weakness. Consumers, meanwhile, account for about 70 percent of economic activity. If they're not confident enough to spend, no one else has the buying power to take up the slack.