Updated from 4:04 p.m. ESTStocks closed with solid gains Monday, despite a weaker-than-expected reading on the manufacturing sector and a slowdown in the pace of consumer spending. A bullish forecast for 2004 semiconductor sales helped keep buyers in charge. The Dow rose 94.22 points, or 0.89%, to close at 10,678.14; the S&P 500 gained 11.03 points, or 1%, to 1,155.97, about 2 points below its recent 23-month high; and the Nasdaq led gains following a six-week losing streak. It added 27.98 points, or 1.38%, to finish at 2057.80, its best one-day point gain since Feb. 6. Volume on the New York Stock Exchange approached 1.5 billion shares, with advancers beating out decliners by 7 to 2. Some 1.7 billion shares changed hands on the Nasdaq, where advancers topped decliners by 2 to 1. Sean Martin, the head trader at A. Gary Shilling, acknowledged that economic news was weaker than expected, but he noted that the employment component of a report from the Institute for Supply Management was particularly strong. "That's something the market is really waiting to see," he said. "Employment was much stronger this month, and that's a good sign." In one of the market's marquee economic readings, the ISM said its purchasing managers index fell slightly to 61.4 in February from 63.6 in January. While anything greater than 50 implies growth, the slip was slightly worse than economists expected. The index's gauge of new orders slid to 66.4 from 71.1. However, the employment index of the PMI shot up to 56.3, the highest level since December 1987, from 52.9. February marked the fourth straight month that the manufacturing sector has seen an improvement in hiring activity. Investors are hoping that foreshadows a positive reading from the eagerly awaited employment report due out Friday from the government. "I think we know the economy is strong," added Martin. "The market is just waiting for Friday's report. They've been disappointed time and time again on this, and it's really the last shoe that needs to drop here. I think it makes sense that this month's number could be a real whopper, and people are starting to anticipate that."