Today's 3 Best Stocks

Today's 3 Best Stocks

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.

With earnings season slowly beginning to wind down and most of the crucial economic data -- PPI, CPI, weekly initial jobless claims, industrial production, housing starts, and consumer sentiment -- scheduled for the next four days, investors' apathy was certainly reflected in today's tight and marginally lower trading range for the broad-based S&P 500 .

One piece of economic data that did move the markets was the release of the U.S. Treasury budget for July, which showed a slightly higher-than-expected deficit of $97.6 billion compared to economists' estimates of $96 billion. It isn't uncommon for the U.S. Treasury to run a deficit during the summer months since it's far away from tax-collecting season. Any deficit right now, however, will be viewed by investors with menacing eyes given the need to reduce government spending in the wake of the sequester.

Digesting this news, the S&P 500 finished slightly lower by 1.95 points (-0.12%), to close at 1,689.47. More interestingly, even though they've been small drops on a percentage basis, this is the fifth time in the past six trading sessions that the S&P 500 has finished lower.

It wasn't a day of huge moves as compared to what we've witnessed during much of earnings season, but gold miner Newmont Mining nonetheless led the charge, up 4.7%. Newmont's boost came on the heels of a nearly $23/oz. rise in spot gold prices after Japan reported second-quarter GDP growth of 2.6% when economists had forecasted 3.6%. A weaker dollar proved to be exactly what Newmont needed to rally higher. Furthermore, Newmont ties its dividend to the average spot price of gold in the prior quarter. Any rally in gold prices could therefore mean a beefier dividend for shareholders.

Higher-end retailer Nordstrom was in a similar boat as Newmont, having moved higher, 3.4% to be exact, without any real company-specific news. The excitement surrounding Nordstrom shares likely boils down to two near-term catalysts. First, Nordstrom is expected to report its second-quarter earnings results on Thursday. Having frequently set the tone for luxury retailers since the recession, many eyes are waiting for this report. Second, this is the bread-and-butter time of the year where retailers rake in back-to-school dollars. Whereas discount retailers would be expected to be the big winners each and every year, luxury retailers like Nordstrom have regularly bucked that trend.

Finally, application delivery networking company F5 Networks jumped 3.1% following a ratings upgrade by Barclays analyst Ben Reitzes. Reitzes upped F5 to overweight from equal weight and boosted his price target to $107 from $89 after many of F5's networking peers exhibited strong results during earnings season and with the expectation that security demand will only increase. As for me, while I firmly believe in F5 CEO John McAdam, I'm still concerned that weakened government spending could cause short-term earnings disruptions for the company over the next couple of quarters.

Today's big move in gold is a stark reminder that gold has outshone the stock market with strong returns since 2000. More recently, though, it has given way to big declines. The Motley Fool's new free report, "The Best Way to Play Gold Right Now," dissects this recent volatility and provides a guide for gold investing. Click here to read the full report today!

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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 and owns shares of F5 Networks. 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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Originally published