Wall Street gave investors something to be thankful for today--their biggest gains in more than a month.

All three major indexes gained around 3 percent today. The Dow Jones industrial average rose 253 points to 8,929.67. The Standard & Poor's 500 index was up 25 at 938.64 and and the Nasdaq composite index climbed 44 points to 1,488.03.

With just a half day of trading on Friday left this month, the Dow Jones industrials appears to be on an 8-week winning streak that will add up to the third month of gains in a row. The S&P and Nasdaq composite seemed headed for their second monthly advance after climbing the past three weeks.

This morning the market took off fast and kept climbing after the release of a batch of new economic data suggesting the economy is getting stronger.

* Consumer spending, which had slipped in September, began to grow again last month, climbing by 0.4 percent, the Commerce Department reported.

* Orders for durable goods jumped by 2.8 percent in October, a full percentage point more than economists had been expecting. The "durable goods" category, also tracked by the Commerce Department, includes cars, appliances and business equipment.

* Manufacturing activity in the Midwest swung from slipping to growing in October, based on a survey by the Purchasing Management Association of Chicago. The group's manufacturing index, which uses 50 as the breakpoint between growth and retrenchment, jumped from 45.9 to 54.3. Economists had been expecting some improvement, but not a break into positive territory.

* New applications for unemployment fell by more than 4 percent to 364,000, the lowest since the week ending Feb. 17, 2001, according to Labor Department statistics.

All that positive data reversed the skepticism that pervaded the markets just 24 hours earlier when other data that seemed to show the economy improving was given a negative spin and blamed for driving down stock prices.

Today's gains more than made up for Tuesday's losses and sweetened what was already going to be a good month for the market. Going into Friday's final day of trading, which ends at 1 p.m., the S&P and the Dow are up about 6 percent for the month, and the Nasdaq is ahead by 11 percent.