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.

The perils of the ongoing government shutdown were even more evident today with a slew of economic data being left on the table due to the government worker furlough. Because of the ongoing shutdown, the Bureau of Labor Statistics did not release the unemployment rate and non-farm payroll figure for September, which is a key factor economists and investors turn to in order to gauge the health of the jobs market.

Although that might sound like the perfect scenario for a drop, it wasn't. In fact, the lack of data actually gave the market every reason to head higher as we near the start of third-quarter earnings, which investors are obviously very encouraged about.

While not the perfect scenario for an up day, the S&P 500 took the lack of data and pre-earnings enthusiasm as a reason to skirt higher by 11.84 points (0.71%) to close at 1,690.50 -- just its third up day in the past 12 sessions.

Topping the charts today were shares of network equipment maker Juniper Networks , which tacked on 3.6% despite no company-specific news. Although there was no news, it isn't hard to understand why Juniper's products are suddenly in big focus. Telecom equipment spending is ramping up in a big way as many large wireless providers attempt to catch Verizon in terms of 4G LTE network coverage. As these networks spend, it trickles down the pipeline to fiber-optic component suppliers and eventually to network equipment companies like Juniper. We've probably only seen the tip of the iceberg in terms of cyclical growth here so tech-savvy investors would be wise to keep their focus on Juniper moving forward.

Shares of insurer Aetna advanced 3.4% after announcing that it and partner Inova had received approval from the Virginia Board of Insurance to offer health insurance and HMO groups to employers in the state. The two companies collaborated to create Innovation Health in 2012 and it appears their partnership will soon pay off. Obviously, new markets are a great thing for Aetna, which is looking to pick up as many new members as it can with the passing of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. It won't be a cakewalk for insurers, but Aetna certainly finds itself in better shape among corporate enrollees than many of its peers.

Cardiovascular medical device company St. Jude Medical jumped 2.6% following the release of positive briefing documents from the Food and Drug Administration with regard to CardioMEMS' Champion Heart Failure Monitoring System. You might be doing a head scratch here wondering why privately held CardioMEMS matters to St. Jude, but St. Jude is the largest investor in CardioMEMS and has an option to purchase the company. In other words, if a medical device approval appears likely, which these briefing documents would suggest, St. Jude will have a clear path to purchase CardioMEMS and add another successful device to its diverse product line.

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