Stock market posts big gains in Nov.

NEW YORK — The stock market closed out its best month since the summer, posting big gains for November even as investors worried about the strength of the holiday shopping season.

Stocks fluctuated through the day Monday, but finished modestly higher as traders ultimately were not deterred by reports that retail sales were overall uninspiring during the Thanksgiving weekend. Retailers including Macy's Inc. and Saks Inc. fell sharply but online merchants like Inc. shot higher on reports of strong Internet sales.

Despite the tepid finish, the Dow Jones industrial average and the Standard & Poor's 500 index rose more than 5 percent in November, their biggest monthly advance since July.

Benny Lorenzo, CEO of the investment bank Kaufman Bros. in New York, said investors are cautious about holiday sales so far, but he also pointed to Internet retailers as one area of strength.

"Certainly in a market like this it could've been a lot worse for sure," he said.

A late-day report that Dubai was working on restructuring its debt gave stocks a lift. Investors, satisfied for the moment that credit problems in the Middle Eastern city-state of Dubai would be addressed without spreading, turned their attention to consumers, whose spending is the biggest driver of the U.S. economy.

According to preliminary calculations, the Dow rose 34.92, or 0.3 percent, to 10,344.84. The broader S&P 500 index rose 4.14, or 0.4 percent, to 1,095.63, and the Nasdaq composite index rose 6. 16, or 0.3 percent, to 2,144.60.

Three stocks rose for every two that fell on the New York Stock Exchange, where volume came to a moderate 1.3 billion shares.

Ethan Anderson, a senior portfolio manager at Rehmann Financial in Grand Rapids, Mich., said record-low interest rates are leaving even hesitant investors with few options for generating decent returns, so they keep buying stocks although they're wary about whether the market can keep rising.

"A lot of investors right now are looking for a reason to get out," he said. "The question is where else can you put your money."

The stock market's modest moves came after stocks tumbled Friday on concern about Dubai's debt problems. The Dow ended with a loss of 155 points after being down more than 200 in the early going.

The market drew some support from an unexpected improvement at factories. The Chicago Purchasing Managers index, which measures Midwestern manufacturing, rose to 56.1 in November from 54.2 in October. New orders rose and employment improved, while production expansion slowed.