The stock market closed out a horrendous October, its worst month in 21 years, with a strong advance as more investors took chances on stocks...

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NEW YORK — The stock market closed out a horrendous October, its worst month in 21 years, with a strong advance as more investors took chances on stocks turned into bargains by waves of intense selling.

The Dow Jones industrials rose 144.32, or 1.6 percent, today to close at 9,325.01, but ended the month down 14.1 percent.

The broader Standard & Poor’s 500 index gained 14.66, or 1.5 percent, to 968.76, but lost 16.9 percent during October as the stock market fell victim to investors’ anguish over frozen credit markets and what looked like an inevitable recession. The Nasdaq composite index advanced 22.43, or 1.3 percent, to 1,720.95, but slid 17.7 percent in October.

Today’s session gave the market its first back-to-back advances in more than a month. Investors who have become used to bad economic news dealt calmly with data showing a drop in consumer spending.

Another reason for the advance: Funds that dumped stocks furiously as the end of their fiscal year approached were finished with their selling.

Earlier today, the Commerce Department said personal spending fell by 0.3 percent last month, as expected, the biggest decline since June 2004. Combined with flat readings in both July and August, it led to the worst quarterly performance in 28 years.

But Wall Street’s reaction to the data was far from frantic. Given this week’s readings on flagging consumer confidence and shrinking gross domestic product, investors have largely discounted the fact that Americans are fearful about the economy and their shrinking investment portfolios.

October has been the worst month for the market in 21 years — and many stocks are looking like bargains right now.

Before committing to a direction, the market is going to want to put the presidential election next week behind it and focus on the October employment report due next Friday — which should provide some insight into how long and how severe the economic downturn could be.

The market is “settling into a little bit of a holding pattern” ahead of the election and jobs report, said Craig Peckham, market strategist at Jefferies & Co. “The fear level has clearly subsided, but there’s still a pervasive tone of unease.”

In other economic data, the Chicago Purchasing Managers Index, a measure of manufacturing activity, fell to a reading of 37.8 — much worse than the 48.0 figure that analysts anticipated. But the University of Michigan’s consumer sentiment data came in at 57.6, slightly better than the 57.5 expected.

Alongside the unsurprisingly downbeat readings, investors also considered whether government help for struggling homeowners might be able to help stabilize the housing market and alleviate a worry for many homeowners, even those not behind on mortgage payments.

Crude oil fell $1.35 to settle at $64.61 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

Overseas, Japan’s Nikkei stock average fell 5 percent. Britain’s FTSE 100 rose 2 percent, Germany’s DAX index rose 2.4 percent, and France’s CAC-40 rose 2.3 percent.