Manufacturing growth picked up in October

New orders increased by 1.9 percentage points to 54.2, the second consecutive month of growth, while production picked up pace to 52.4, up nearly 3 percentage points, bouncing back from two months of contraction. 

Employment, which continued expanding, slowed slightly, to 52.1, down from 54.7. 

In a separate report on Thursday, ADP said employers added 158,000 private-sector jobs in October, but the analysis showed a loss of 8,000 manufacturing positions. 

Economists estimate it could be a temporary problem while the European financial crisis sorts itself out. 

President Obama and Republican nominee Mitt Romney have been trading barbs over whose economic policies will accelerate growth, the central theme of the presidential campaign. 

But good economic news, even after the devastation of Hurricane Sandy this week, could bolster Obama's chances for a second term. 

Beside an improving manufacturing report, first-time jobless claims fell last week, consumer confidence hit its highest level since February 2008 and construction spending increased 0.6 percent in September as the housing market picks up pace, all pushing up the stock market. 

The Dow Jones Industrial Average was up nearly 140 points.