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.
Following yesterday's sizable losses, the broad-based S&P 500 soared on mixed economic data and robust earnings reports.
On the positive side, the October jobs report showed gains of 204,000 nonfarm payroll jobs, which was practically double what economists had expected. Understandably, the estimates were all over the place considering the effect of the government shutdown; but these are still very strong results, nonetheless. Ironically, though, with more people actively being counted in the labor force, the unemployment rate actually ticked higher by 0.1%, to 7.3%.
An early reading of the Michigan Consumer Sentiment Index was on the other side of the spectrum, with a reading of 72 coming in well below expectations for a reading of 75. A lower reading here implies that consumers are getting more skeptical of the U.S. economy and, if this trend continues, could reduce their spending and make a challenging holiday season for retailers even tougher.
Overall, investors took the uptick in the unemployment rate as a great sign that the Federal Reserve may continue with its monetary easing for quite some time going forward, dispelling yesterday's primary fears after a better-than-expected third-quarter GDP report. They sent the iconic index higher by 23.46 points (1.34%) to close at 1,770.61, less than five points from a new all-time high.
Leading the index higher today with a gain of 9.8% was clothing retailer Gap , which delivered a better-than-expected preliminary third-quarter forecast, and reported solid October same-store sales growth. For the quarter, Gap said it now expects EPS to be in the range of $0.70-$0.71, versus the current consensus of just $0.66. Furthermore, October's same-store sales increased by 4%, according to the company, compared to estimates that had called for a minuscule 0.1% increase. I have little question in my mind, based on these results, that its flagship Gap stores are outperforming the competition, but I remain skeptical of its Old Navy line, which delivered flat same-store sales growth for the quarter, and has been a drag on Gap's top and bottom line for years. As such, I would approach today's move higher very cautiously until its Old Navy brand delivers more consistent growth.
Graphics chip and mobile processor producer NVIDIA went the other way with its third-quarter results, missing sales expectations, and guiding revenue lower than the Street anticipated in the fourth quarter. It still managed, however, to vault higher by 7% on the day after raising its dividend by 13%, and topping EPS expectations in the third quarter. For the quarter, NVIDIA delivered adjusted EPS of $0.26, which topped expectations by $0.07, even with the aforementioned revenue miss. NVIDIA also announced a plan to return $1 billion in share buybacks and dividends to shareholders in 2015, and approved an additional $1 billion in share repurchases. Although revenue is expected to be flat quarter over quarter, I'm quite optimistic that the company's Tegra chips will be a big success in mobile, and would suggest NVIDIA remain a company you keep high on your watchlist
Finally, shares of life insurance company Lincoln National added 5.7% on the day despite no company-specific news. Today's move higher could very well just be carryover from its third-quarter results reported a little more than a week ago where it handily topped the consensus EPS and revenue forecast of analysts. Annuities and retirement planning services have been a big boost to the sector over the past couple of quarters, and a rising market is surely going to encourage investors, young and old, to consider jumping back in and investing for their futures.
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The article Today's 3 Best Stocks in the S&P 500 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 recommends Nvidia. 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.
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