NEW YORK >> Wall Street barreled higher today, lifting the Dow Jones industrials more than 250 points, as investors celebrated a string of positive economic data. The rally brought the market's major indexes back to levels not seen since the summer.
Markets surge in light
By Amy Baldwin
Trading was light in the pre-holiday session, but the gains were big with the Nasdaq composite index also rising sharply, picking up more than 40 points.
The sharp advance defied expectations that stocks would pull back after nearly two months of rallies on Wall Street and that traders would not want to commit to stocks ahead of the holiday weekend.
Investors first got a lift from a jump in consumer spending -- the news helped the market shake off its disappointment from the previous session when it was irked by a weaker-than-expected reading on consumer sentiment.
Investors were also pleased by a spike in orders to U.S. factories for big-ticket items and an increase in manufacturing activity in the Midwest. Analysts said the trio of positive reports assuaged investors' concerns that the economy could slip back into recession.
"The numbers suggest the economy is indeed resilient and the consumer has stayed on track where spending is concerned," said Kevin Caron, market strategist, Ryan, Beck & Co., LLC.
The Dow closed up 252.26, or 2.9 percent, at 8,931.68, according to preliminary calculations. The Dow more than recouped the 172.98 lost in the previous session and was on its way to an eighth straight winning week.
The last time the Dow closed higher was Aug. 22 when it stood at 9,053.60.
In another sign of the market's growing momentum, the Dow enjoyed its best day before Thanksgiving ever, surpassing the 2.5 percent gain seen in 1957, according to Markethistory.com, a financial research Web site.
The broader market -- up for six of the past seven weeks -- was also higher today.
The Nasdaq soared 43.51, or 3 percent, to 1,487.94. The last time the Nasdaq finished higher was June 19 when it was at 1,496.83.
The Standard & Poor's 500 index advanced 25.56, or 2.8 percent, to 938.87. The last time the S&P finished higher was Aug. 26 when it stood at 947.95.
Advancing issues outnumbered decliners nearly 4 to 1 on the New York Stock Exchange. Trading volume was light at 1.07 billion shares, below 1.11 billion at the same point yesterday.
The Russell 2000 index, which tracks smaller company stocks, rose 11.90, or 3 percent, to 410.22. The NYSE composite index gained 12.89 to 496.26. The American Stock Exchange composite index rose 9.86 to 814.22.
"Today, the market couldn't hold back. It had to respond to the batch of positive economic news," said Peter Cardillo, president and chief strategist of Global Partner Securities Inc.
Trading was light ahead of tomorrow's Thanksgiving holiday, when the market will be closed. The market will be open for a half day on Friday.