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Stocks Close Best Month in Over a Year 11/30 15:45

   Stocks closed mostly higher Thursday as the market ended November with its 
biggest monthly gain in more than a year.

   (AP) -- Stocks closed mostly higher Thursday as the market ended November 
with its biggest monthly gain in more than a year.

   The S&P 500 rose 0.4% after drifting between small gains and losses. The 
benchmark index rose 8.9% in November, its biggest monthly gain since July 2022.

   The Dow Jones Industrial Average jumped 1.5%, while the Nasdaq composite 
slipped 0.2%. Both indexes also posted solid gains for the month, finishing 
with gains of 8.8% and 10.7%, respectively.

   The market marched steadily higher for much of November as investors grew 
hopeful that the Federal Reserve is finally done raising interest rates, which 
fight inflation by slowing the economy. Those hopes got more support with a 
report that the Fed's preferred measure of inflation cooled last month.

   November's rally was also driven largely by the technology sector, where 
several companies with high values tend to disproportionately impact the 
market. Microsoft gained 12.1% for the month, while Nvidia rose 14.7%. Also, 
Treasury yields have generally been falling and easing pressure on stocks. High 
yields tend to make expensive stocks look less attractive to investors.

   "The rally has been dramatic in its move," said Quincy Krosby, chief global 
strategist for LPL Financial.

   The momentum has stalled over the last week or so, which is the market's way 
of dealing with an overbought scenario, she said, but it hardly suggests a deep 
sell-off ahead.

   "What you want to see is that next leg up as we close the year," she said. 
"November is a strong month for the market, but so is December."

   Thursday's report from the Commerce Department said prices were unchanged 
from September to October, down from a 0.4% rise the previous month. Compared 
with a year ago, consumer prices rose 3% in October, below the 3.4% annual rate 
in September. That was the lowest year-over-year inflation rate in more than 2 
1/2 years.

   The Fed's aggressive rate hike policy pushed its benchmark interest rate 
from near zero in 2022 to its highest level in two decades by the middle of 
2023. The goal has been to tame inflation back to the Fed's target rate of 2%.

   Wall Street is betting that the central bank will continue to hold rates 
steady at its December meeting and into early 2024, when it could start 
considering cutting interest rates. Fed officials have hinted at those 
possibilities, while also saying any future moves will be based on economic 

   The latest data on economic growth and consumer confidence have also raised 
hopes that the Fed will achieve its sought-after "soft landing," which involves 
cooling the inflation without throwing the economy into a recession. Meanwhile, 
the latest round of surprisingly encouraging corporate earnings gave investors 
more confidence that businesses and the economy can keep humming along.

   Treasury yields gained ground Thursday. The yield on the 10-year Treasury, 
which influences mortgage rates, rose to 4.34% from 4.26% late Wednesday.

   Traders had their eye on companies reporting quarterly results.

   Software company Salesforce jumped 9.4% after giving investors a strong 
profit forecast. Cloud-computing company Snowflake rose 7% after also giving 
Wall Street an encouraging financial forecast.

   On the losing end, data storage company Pure Storage fell 12.2% after giving 
investors a disappointing revenue outlook.

   Also Thursday, the Labor Department said slightly more Americans filed for 
unemployment benefits last week, but the overall number of people in the U.S. 
collecting benefits rose to its highest level in two years. The report shows 
that the labor market remains strong, but is showing signs of softening.

   Oil prices have also been falling, as have gasoline prices in the U.S., 
relieving pressure on consumers. The price of U.S. crude oil fell 2.4% 
Thursday, despite the latest extension of OPEC's production cuts.

   In Europe, the latest data showed that inflation dropped more than expected 
to 2.4% in November, the lowest in more than two years. The new figure is close 
to the European Central Bank's inflation target of 2% following a rapid series 
of interest rate hikes dating to summer 2022.

   All told, the S&P 500 rose 17.22 points to 4,567.80 on Thursday. The Dow 
jumped 520.47 points to 35,950.89, with an assist from Salesforce, which 
reported better-than-expected results and raised its outlook. The Nasdaq 
composite dropped 32.27 points to 14,226.22.

   Stocks in Asia and Europe closed mostly higher.

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