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.

Coming out of a very busy previous week that saw Congress negotiate a four-month extension to the U.S. debt ceiling and end a 16-day government shutdown, it shouldn't come as too big of a surprise that, with few earnings reports on the docket this morning and just one snippet of economic news, the broad-based S&P 500 had a relatively calm day that hugged the flat-line.

The one "snippet" of news that investors were privy to today was September's existing home sales figures, which slid nearly 2% to an annually adjusted rate of 5.29 million homes. This figure was ever-so-slightly below economists' forecasts, and could be a direct result of interest rates, which are a bit higher than they were in early May.

Overall, though, investors and the broad-based S&P 500 seem to be paying extra credence to third-quarter earnings reports, with the congressional shutdown and debt ceiling kicked further down the road. For the next three or four weeks we could see a very volatile market.

By day's end, the S&P 500 edged fractionally higher, by just 0.16 points (0.01%), to close at 1,744.66, another all-time high and the seventh time the index has been up in the past eight sessions.

Topping the charts once again was solar panel manufacturer First Solar , which added 7.8% despite the fact that there was no company-specific news today. This move could very well be a carryover from the announcement last week that it would be building a 250 MW solar plant in California for the country's largest alternative energy utility by capacity, NextEra Energy . Another consideration here is that First Solar is a heavily short-sold company, making this rally particularly painful for pessimists and perhaps causing them to cover their positions. First Solar's ability to snag large projects domestically and its improved solar panel efficiency relative to many of its Chinese counterparts certainly make it the name to watch in solar.

Streaming content provider Netflix continued its explosive run higher by tacking on another 6.4% to close a penny below $355 per share on high expectations for its third-quarter earnings, which were released after the bell. The report, which has Netflix up an additional $30-plus in the after-hours as of this writing, delivered a profit of $0.52 per share on revenue of $1.11 billion, compared to estimates calling for just $0.49 in EPS. Furthermore, Netflix sees domestic streaming subscribership reaching 32.7 million to 33.5 million by year's end. It's tough to argue against Netflix's niche strategy and recent deals, though its lack of cash flow relative to its current valuation still scares me away.

Finally, shares of toy and games maker Hasbro jumped 5.3% after it topped Wall Street's expectations with its third-quarter results. For the quarter, Hasbro reported a 2% increase in sales, reaching $1.37 billion as adjusted EPS rose slightly to $1.31 from $1.24 in the year-ago period. International sales growth of 11% and entertainment and licensing growth of 13% accounted for the bulk of the excitement, along with Hasbro's push into more games targeting girls, long a missed opportunity for the company. Given its growing dividend, I would certainly suggest giving Hasbro a closer look following today's report.

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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.Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools don't 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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