NEW YORK - The stock market began June with a strong rally, thanks to another wave of benign economic data.
But some investors are nervous that the month, traditionally a weak one for stocks, may not end as well. The market's gains yesterday came despite signs that the economy might have a tough slog ahead of it, including rising interest rates and the nation's fourth-largest bankruptcy.
Traders homed on better-than-expected readings on manufacturing, consumer spending, and construction spending. The Dow Jones industrial average and other major indexes rose more than 2 percent, and the Standard & Poor's 500 index and Nasdaq composite rose to their highest levels this year.
But while the economic data suggested the economy's decline is moderating, they did not indicate a rebound. Construction spending rose in April, but personal spending was down slightly. Personal incomes were flat, and U.S. manufacturing activity contracted for the 16th straight month in May, although at a slower pace.
Yesterday also brought General Motors Corp.'s bankruptcy filing, the fourth-largest in U.S. history. The filing did not come as a shock, but it was a reminder of the government's heavy involvement in corporate America after the takeovers of American International Group Inc. and the mortgage giants Freddie Mae and Freddie Mac.
With the stock market rally now nearly three months old, a number of analysts say they think the market has come too far, too fast since hitting 12-year lows in early March. The S&P 500 had its quickest recovery since the 1930s.
"I can't really buy into today's superhappy stock market," said Kim Caughey, equity research analyst at Fort Pitt Capital Group Inc. She said she was skeptical because even if the economy was stabilizing, there was little to drive demand once it bottomed.
Analysts pointed out that technical factors also pushed stocks higher yesterday. The first trading day of the month often brings a surge of new money from mutual funds, and the S&P and Dow both broke through their 200-day moving averages for the first time in more than a year. Moving averages are closely watched technical barometers for the market.
The Dow rose 221.11, or 2.60 percent, to 8,721.44, its highest close since early January.
The Standard & Poor's 500 index rose 23.73, or 2.58 percent, to 942.87, while the Nasdaq composite index rose 54.35, or 3.06 percent, to 1,828.68.
Ford Motor Co. closed up 38 cents, or 6.61 percent, at $6.13. Analysts say the automaker stands to benefit from the bankruptcy-protection filings of its Detroit rivals, General Motors and Chrysler L.L.C.
Deere & Co. closed up $3.49, or 8.03 percent, at $46.96. The farm-equipment-maker named 34-year company veteran Samuel Allen, 55, as its ninth-ever chief executive officer, starting on the job Aug. 1.
Exxon Mobil Corp. closed up $2.41 at $71.76. Oil prices surged to their highest level since October, while prices at the gas pump rose to a more than seven-month peak above $2.50.