Today's 3 Best Stocks

Today's 3 Best Stocks

The S&P 500 ended its day as close to even as can be, with a mere 0.1% gain on a 1.4-point rise after spending most of the day climbing out of the steep hole it fell into this morning. That wasn't enough to give it a positive week -- the S&P 500 is down 0.1% for the last five trading days. This is a rare (if narrow) weekly loss in an unusually buoyant year. No S&P stock had a worse day than Expedia's -- the online travel company lost more than 25% of its value today after announcing disappointing quarterly results.

Is this a sign of a souring economy? Investors didn't seem to think so, as they've bid a number of stocks up quite a bit today to cover for Expedia's crash. Here are the best stocks on the S&P 500 today:

Starbucks wowed the Street with impressive growth across all its most-important metrics. Revenue improved by double digits. Operating margins have swelled. Same-store sales knocked it out of the park. People love Starbucks right now, whether they're buying a hot latte or a piping-hot stock. The company projects double-digit revenue and EPS growth for its upcoming fiscal year, but as several Fools have noted, Starbucks' high valuation might be pricing it out of many value-conscious investors' portfolios. Still, today was a very Starbucks day, as the coffee chain led all S&P 500 stocks with its 7.6% pop.

Beleaguered miner Cliffs Natural Resources continued its summer bounce with a post-earnings pop of 7.2%. Cliffs reported sales of roughly $1.49 billion, down from the year-ago quarter's $1.58 billion on soft ore pricing, and its earnings of $0.82 per share were 55% lower than the year-ago quarter's result. However, expectations were so low -- Wall Street had modeled revenue of $1.41 billion an earnings of $0.61 per share -- that Cliffs investors cheered even this weak performance as evidence that the ground hasn't yet completely given way beneath their feet. The company now projects roughly a million tons less in iron ore sales for the entire fiscal year than it had originally anticipated, but with any luck, the persistent weakness in commodities will turn around in Cliffs' favor next year.

Investment company Principal Financial rounded out today's top three S&P stocks with a 6.3% gain for the day after reporting its own set of strong earnings. Principal's $2.31 in reported quarterly revenue was below the Street's $2.34 consensus, but earnings of $0.91 per share blasted past the consensus of $0.82 in earnings per share. Both top- and bottom-line results were roughly 30% higher than the year-ago quarter's result, and Principal rode this surge toward higher dividend payouts. The company will now pay $0.26 per share each quarter, up 13% from the earlier $0.23 payout.

Is the S&P's future going to look more like Expedia's day, or Starbucks'? Tune in next week to find out!

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Fool contributor Alex Planes holds no financial position in any company mentioned here. Add him on Google+ or follow him on Twitter @TMFBiggles for more insight into markets, history, and technology.The Motley Fool recommends Starbucks. The Motley Fool owns shares of Starbucks. 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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