Although we don't believe in timing the market or panicking over market movements, we do like to keep an eye on big changes -- just in case they're material to our investing thesis.
It was an extremely busy week from the economic data front, but with no noteworthy data on the table today, investors had time to reflect on the FOMC's comments from earlier in the week, and realized that things aren't as bright and cheery as they originally suspected.
On one hand, investors love the prospect of ongoing stimulus as it's essentially free money that's being injected into the economy to support low-lending rates over the long term, and help buoy the housing sector. Investors have really been leaning on housing again over the past year as a tool in addition to stocks to grow their wealth, so this was initially seen as a surprisingly favorable move by the Fed.
But, with a few days having passed, investors also realize that the reason the stimulus is staying in place, and the Fed isn't tapering, is because the economic data is still weak. In other words, the Fed doesn't believe the U.S. economy is ready to have its training wheels taken off yet. That exhibits little faith on the Fed's part in the U.S. economy, and casts doubt over the broad-based S&P 500's new all-time high set earlier this week.
With perhaps a little reality settling in, investors sent the S&P to its steepest sell-off in three weeks, with the index losing 12.58 points (-0.73%), to close at 1,709.76.
The top gainer within the S&P 500 today certainly didn't put up awe-stopping numbers, but with a gain of 2.8%, shareholders of analytical data solutions company Teradata will gladly take it heading into the weekend. The move appears to be partly related to yesterday's press release that its Teradata Aster Discovery Platform had won two People's Choice Stevie awards. Obviously, getting product recognition is great for Teradata, as it's free advertising, and consumers/enterprises like to buy what other users feel is the superior product. Weak government spending has certainly been a bit of a drawback for Teradata over the past year, but at 18 times forward earnings, I'd consider it worth another look.
Content streaming king Netflix also decisively bucked the downtrend by advancing 2.7% despite a lack of company-specific news, and hitting a new all-time intraday high of $315.88/share. One possible motive behind the move is the excitement among entertainment-industry enthusiasts with regard to Sunday's Emmy awards. Netflix has made big strides to expand its digital content library, sign new content deals, and make a big push overseas, so award ceremonies like the Emmy's only give Netflix an opportunity to show off the diversity of its hit programming. While it's hard to argue against Netflix's incredible comeback, I still can't get behind a company that's producing minimal cash flow and trades at 94 times next year's earnings.
Finally, bio-analytic and measurement solutions company Agilent Technologies carried over some of yesterday's excitement, and added on another 2.3% in gains. If you recall, Agilent announced yesterday that it plans to split up into two separate companies: one that will encompass its life sciences, diagnostics, and applied markets operations that will retain the Agilent name, and another company that will be comprised of its electronic measurement solutions segment. Spinoffs help improve revenue and earnings transparency for shareholders, which make investing decisions easier for prospective shareholders and often unlocks shareholder value. The big unanswered question here, though, is whether or not Agilent can reignite organic growth once it does split.
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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, and recommends Netflix. It also recommends Teradata. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not 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.