Today's 3 Best Stocks in the S&P 500

Today's 3 Best Stocks in the S&P 500

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.

Despite an abundance of positive economic data, the broad-based S&P 500 simply couldn't overcome ongoing investor skepticism that the market may have trouble heading higher following a two-week-plus government shutdown, and with another debt-ceiling debate on tap in about three months.

Perhaps nothing proved more exciting for bulls than the ridiculous jump in the Chicago Purchasing Managers Index to 65.9 in October, from 55.7 in September, absolutely crushing economists' expectations that had called for a reading of 55 (any reading over 50 signals expansion). This represents the highest level of expansion among Chicago area manufacturers since March 2011, and is the fastest rate of expansion in over 30 years! An expanding Chicago PMI could signal that GDP growth in this country may be more robust than economists are forecasting.

Also, initial weekly jobless claims came in at a seasonally adjusted 340,000, down 10,000 from the prior week. Although this figure was a bit higher than forecasts, it nonetheless points to an improving jobs market, which would encourage a falling unemployment rate.

However, by day's end, the S&P 500 couldn't use these economic tools to its advantage, and fell by 6.77 points (-0.38%) to close at 1,756.54. This also marks the first two-day losing streak in more than three weeks for the S&P 500.

Flying higher than all other S&P 500 components today was online travel service Expedia , which advanced 18% after reporting better-than-expected results in the third quarter. This was an impressive turnaround for Expedia, which nosedived just last quarter when its guidance wasn't up to snuff. Overall, Expedia noted that gross bookings improved by 15%, with hotel bookings jumping 20%, which is important because hotel bookings are where the big margins are to be made. Overall, revenue increased 17%, to $1.4 billion, with the company delivering $1.43 in EPS compared to expectations from the Street of $1.37 billion in revenue on a profit of $1.37 per share. If Expedia wasn't already on your radar, make sure you add it to your watchlist by the end of today!

Harman International silenced its critics, as well, by rising 12.5% after reporting market-topping first-quarter results. The audio equipment specialist pumped out a 17% increase in revenue, to $1.17 billion, despite its net income falling 16% from the year-ago period, to $46 million. However, Harman's adjusted EPS of $0.95 handily topped estimates that ranged between $0.84 and $0.86. Strong sales in the luxury auto market of its infotainment systems, which provide navigation and entertainment services, pushed Harman's quarterly results higher, and should remain a driving force for its bottom- ine unless we see a serious deterioration in consumer confidence.

Finally, Microchip Technology , a company that makes chips designed for embedded control applications, jumped 7.5% after reporting its second-quarter results. For the quarter, Microchip reported sales of $492.7 million, up 28.5% from the year-ago quarter, as the company recorded record net income of $136.4 million, or an adjusted $0.63 in EPS. By comparison, Wall Street was looking for just $0.60 in EPS from Microchip. This was an incredible quarter all the way around, with strong growth in Microchips' analog and microcontroller business, and it was topped off by the company raising its operating non-GAAP operating profit forecast, as well as its dividend by a fraction! If you're looking for an impressive dividend play in the tech sector with a handsome dividend, then Microchip could be worth a look.

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