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.

I certainly haven't been able to say this very often lately, but given that trading volume is light and the bond market is closed for Veterans Day, the broad-based S&P 500 was stuck in a tight trading range today, ending only fractionally higher.

As you might figure, with the bond market closed we also didn't receive any financial reports. This left investors to simply trade off of the third-quarter earnings reports which are predominantly now in the rearview mirror. In a third-quarter earnings analysis review released over the weekend, FactSet said that 73% of S&P 500 companies topped earnings-per-share estimates while just 52% beat on revenue. To me, this signals that cost-cutting and share buybacks are doing the trick for now, but I remain concerned that a lack of genuine organic growth could derail this rally.

By days end, the S&P 500 had trudged higher by 1.28 points (0.07%) to close at 1,771.89, just a few points from another all-time record high.

Big-box retailer Best Buy was among the day's top performers, gaining 4.5% after receiving positive commentary from two separate analysts. Jefferies analyst Daniel Binder kept his buy rating on the company amid heavy cost cuts and operating efficiency investments which should improve bottom-line results this holiday season. Binder did, however, boost his price target on Best Buy by 30% to $52. Similarly, UBS' Michael Lasser upgraded Best Buy to buy from neutral and boosted his price target to $49 from $35 on the expectation of better results stemming from expense reductions. With Best Buy now's pricing I would indeed expect a very robust holiday season for the retailer.

Struggling department store J.C. Penney continued its winning streak, gaining another 4% after reporting an October same-store sales increase of 0.9% last week. This marked Penney's first same-store sales increase in nearly two years and could be a sign that traffic and sales are finally stabilizing. The thing to remember here is that just because things aren't getting worse doesn't mean they'll get better anytime soon -- they'll just be slightly less bad. CEO Myron Ullman understands this is a multiyear turnaround effort, and Penney's disadvantageous debt load and cash burn leave it difficult to make drastic changes to its underperforming business model.

Finally, auto retailer CarMax added 2.5% after Moody's upgraded a number of CarMax's debt tranches on Friday and placed numerous others on review for a possible upgrade. The thought process for investors is that Moody's would only do this if the outlook for used car sales was improving, or if CarMax's underlying liquidity or fundamentals were improving. Either way, it marks a signal to shareholders that CarMax is in good shape and it could be a cue for you to dig deeper into the company if you haven't already done so.

How thinking outside the box can make you rich
Tired of not seeing your holdings among the days top performers? Perhaps it's time to think outside the box! Motley Fool co-founder David Gardner, founder of the No. 1 growth stock newsletter in the world, has developed a unique strategy for uncovering truly wealth-changing stock picks. And he wants to share it, along with a few of his favorite growth stock superstars, WITH YOU! It's a special 100% FREE report called "6 Picks for Ultimate Growth." So stop settling for index-hugging gains... and click HERE for instant access to a whole new game plan of stock picks to help power your portfolio.

The article Today's 3 Best Stocks in the S&P 500 originally appeared on

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 owns shares of, and recommends It also recommends CarMax and Moody's. 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.

Copyright © 1995 - 2013 The Motley Fool, LLC. All rights reserved. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

Read Full Story