Why Galena, SouFun, and Marathon Petroleum Are 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.

Strong economic numbers? Wall Street seems happy to overlook that, as despite a better-than-expected result from today's purchasing manager's index, the S&P 500 still shed 0.3%. The Institute for Supply Management's November PMI showed up today with its strongest result since early in 2011, with employment in particular rising in the manufacturing industry -- something that could lead to welcome gains later this week in November's jobs report.

It wasn't just employment gaining in manufacturing for November, however. Twelve our of 18 polled industries showed an uptick in new orders, while customer industries across the sector remain too low on average -- something that should only help boost orders even more in coming months. Manufacturing might not be all the way back from its post-financial crisis dive, but it's showing strong signs of life after years in the markets' doldrums.

That was enough to help the S&P out to early gains today, but investors were quick to shake off the good report. Recently, good news has become synonymous with stimulus tapering on Wall Street, leading to unexpected up-and-down jumps on the markets. The smartest investors, however, are keeping their eyes on the long term. Best to stick to business fundamentals when the stock market's waxing and waning on something as volatile as quantitative easing.

Market movements haven't shaken up one of today's top stocks, however. Galena BioPharma has blown up over the past month, gaining more than 87% since the start of November, and the booming biotech stock added to its supersized gains today with a 12.3% jump. Galena's made this list before earlier this month after hitting a few big jumps just last week, and while the company's made news for strong early stage trial data from one of its developmental drugs, all eyes on this company have focused in on breast cancer treatment NeuVax. NeuVax has a long way to go before Galena can release any conclusive data from phase 3 trials, but the drug's also in mid-stage trials for combination use with Roche's breast cancer drug Herceptin. Herceptin's been a huge blockbuster drug for Roche in past years, and while it's far too early to predict NeuVax's success, Galena -- and its investors -- are hoping to capitalize on the breast cancer treatment market's size.

Chinese stock SouFun Holdings moves up into our list of big winners today with a sterling 10.6% gain. SouFun, with its 150% year-to-date gain, has been one of China's best bets in a year when Hong Kong's Hang Seng stock index has gained a mere 2.4% on the year -- and only because of a big rally over the past few months to counter the plunge from the first half of 2013. SouFun, an online real estate servicer, has capitalized on China's urban housing boom for its gains, and it's not stopping there. The company announced today that it will launch its financial services channel on Dec. 16 for its real estate customers. While some economists have been downbeat on the sustainability of China's home price explosion, as long as Chinese citizens continue flocking to the country's growing urban sprawls, SouFun and other real estate companies should continue to see big returns.

Rounding out our list is Marathon Petroleum , with a 5.6% gain today. Marathon's stock jumped today behind an upgrade from DeutscheBank, which lifted its opinion of the stock to "buy" from "hold." Deutsche Bank cited the refiner's size and access to discounted crude oil as part of its upgrade, even as Marathon missed on analyst expectations in its recent quarterly earnings report. The stock's picked up in a big way in 2013, gaining nearly 30% year to date. While Marathon's earnings haven't lived up to par, the company's revenue has climbed significantly: Marathon's revenue smashed analyst expectations with a 24% year-over-year gain in the most recent quarter. If the company can keep up its strong performance like that, earnings won't be behind for long -- and Deutsche Bank will look good for today's upgrade.

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The article Why Galena, SouFun, and Marathon Petroleum Are Today's 3 Best Stocks originally appeared on Fool.com.

Fool contributor Dan Carroll and The Motley Fool have no position in any of the stocks mentioned. 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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