Today's 3 Best Stocks

Today's 3 Best Stocks

The S&P 500 had a tough time clawing its way into positive territory, but after a lousy morning, the index managed to finish four points higher for a 0.3% gain on the day. Earnings season is upon us, but it seems that every big beat is matched by a disappointing shortfall. So far, there's enough good news to keep the S&P in the green, and it's certainly thanks, in no small part, to the day's three best S&P 500 components. Let's take a look at what propelled those winners to their gains today.

Natural gas company ONEOK led the hit parade with a big 25.5% pop after announcing its plans to spin off its natural gas utility distribution business at some point early next year. The new company, to be called One Gas, will have a two-million-customer network throughout Oklahoma, Kansas, and Texas. By spinning off this business, ONEOK hopes to appeal to yield seekers, as it can now boost its dividend once it becomes a pure-play pipeline partnership company. The utility spinoff also has the added bonuses of debt reduction and greater free cash flow for ONEOK, which will generate an estimated $1.1 billion to $1.2 billion from the spinoff. Freed of the cash-hungry utility segment, ONEOK could become a highly competitive high-yield stock for energy investors.

Earnings season was very good to TripAdvisor , which rose 16.3% today on better-than-expected advertising revenue. The online travel specialist has now gained 60% in 2013, and with double-digit growth in quarterly sales (up 25% year-over-year), and earnings (up 27% on an adjusted basis and 24% under GAAP rules), it's easy to see why. Full-year revenue growth is still expected to come in somewhere in the "low 20s" range, as in 20%. TripAdvisor has been trying to transition into a more search-centric business model, so posting big beats on its earnings in spite of these transitional efforts points toward the potential for bigger gains further on.

Rounding out the S&P's double-digit gainers today is Boston Scientific , which gained 12.7% after impressing Wall Street with both its current progress and its forward projections. The device maker beat top- and bottom-line expectations for the second quarter, and that performance spurred management into raising its full-year guidance. Boston Scientific has nearly doubled since the start of the year, and this bounce was driven by the fact that the company finally posted operating revenue growth after a multiyear slide. RBC Capital Markets analyst Glenn Novarro was a bit shocked by that, noting that he couldn't recall the last time Boston Scientific posted organic revenue growth, and that "most on the Street did not anticipate positive revenue growth until later this year or in 2014." Can Boston Scientific keep it up? It will have to, to justify its stock gains over the past year.

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Fool contributor Alex Planes has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends ONEOK and TripAdvisor. The Motley Fool owns shares of TripAdvisor. 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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