I hope you enjoyed Dow 14,000, Groundhog Day, and the Super Bowl, because reality just smacked investors in the face like a cold bucket of water at five o'clock in the morning.
It was a miserable day for optimists in the U.S. who were decimated by overseas political worries in both Spain and Italy. In Spain, Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy is dealing with allegations that he and his top party officials secretly channeled donations directly into their pockets. Calls for his resignation are intensifying despite his denial of these allegations. In Italy, meanwhile, Silvio Berlusconi, who's shown little favor for the already enacted austerity measures in his country, is gaining favor in election polls. Unsurprisingly, borrowing rates in both countries moved higher.
For the day, the S&P 500 ended decisively lower by 17.46 points (-1.15%), to finish at 1,495.71.
In spite of the negativity, a few companies were able to overcome the overseas pessimism and move higher. Here's a look at three bright spots on a generally gloomy day.
Leading the charge higher, yet again, was streaming content provider Netflix , up another 6.1%. Netflix recently reported its full-year results, which included 9.74 million streaming subscriptions gained during the year and a large fourth-quarter earnings beat. Subsequently, the analyst upgrades have been streaming in, with BMO Capital Markets upping their price target to $165 from $135 while keeping their "market perform" rating on their stock.
Paramount to Netflix's future growth was a key content deal signed with Disney during the fourth quarter, which will give Netflix access to Disney and its subsidiary studios' movies by 2016 and give direct-to-video access of Disney movies this year. For Netflix, it landed an exclusive deal with a premier family-oriented studio, and for Disney, it removed some licensing uncertainties and further strengthens the brand name by licensing it all under one content provider.
Health benefits provider Humana also was off to the races from the opening bell, rising just shy of 5% on the day following the release of its fourth-quarter earnings results. Although EPS declined slightly to $1.19 from $1.20 year over year, it still handily beat the $1.06 consensus estimate on Wall Street. Humana did warn that higher flu costs could cut into its results, but it nonetheless reaffirmed its fiscal 2013 guidance to the delight of shareholders. Many health solutions providers have been hammered with the looming introduction of Obamacare in 2014, but this appears to be another case where investors have underestimated the profit potential of the health benefits sector.
Finally, Newmont Mining and other gold miners found themselves in the spotlight with the European fear factor creeping back into the picture. Shares of Newmont rose around 1% as spot gold prices bucked the general market weakness and headed higher. Gold is often viewed as a safe-haven investment when the market is turning lower, especially in the U.S., where the rapidly increasing money supply in the past few years threatens to dilute the value of the dollar. As goes the spot price of gold, so goes Newmont Mining.
Can Netflix's amazing run continue?
The precipitous drop in Netflix shares since the summer of 2011 has caused many shareholders to lose hope. While the company's first-mover status is often viewed as a competitive advantage, the opportunities in streaming media have brought some new, deep-pocketed rivals looking for their piece of a growing pie. Can Netflix fend off this burgeoning competition, and will its international growth aspirations really pay off? These are must-know issues for investors, which is why we've released a brand-new premium report on Netflix. Inside, you'll learn about the key opportunities and risks facing the company, as well as reasons to buy or sell the stock. We're also offering a full year of updates as key news hits, so make sure to click here and claim a copy today.
The article Today's 3 Best Stocks originally appeared on Fool.com.Fool contributor Sean Williams has no material interest in any companies mentioned in this article. You can follow him on CAPS under the screen name TMFUltraLong, track every pick he makes under the screen name TrackUltraLong, and check him out on Twitter, where he goes by the handle @TMFUltraLong. The Motley Fool owns shares of Netflix and Disney. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended buying shares of Netflix and Disney. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools don't all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.
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