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The markets continued their upward march this week, adding to the already substantial gains for 2012. Greece was no help, as a debt agreement that would unlock the next round of bailout funding and let the country sidestep a messy default proved elusive. The economic news in the U.S. was a bit more optimistic, as multiple manufacturing surveys surprised economists on the upside, while unemployment claims continued to fall. In addition, minutes from the Federal Reserve's most recent rate-setting meeting stoked expectations of further bond buying by the central bank.
By the time the week closed, the Dow Jones Industrial Average (INDEX: ^DJI ) had tacked on 1.2%, while the broader Russell 3000 managed an even more robust 1.5% gain.
Top 3 Performing Sectors
Russell 3000 Sector
Weekly Price Change
Month-to-Date Price Change
Source: S&P Capital IQ. Weekly price change is Feb. 10-Feb. 17. Monthly price change is Jan. 31-Feb. 17.
Payday lender Advance America (NYSE: AEA ) was at the very top of the list when it comes to the week's best performers after it shot up by an impressive 29%, driven by a buyout agreement with Mexico-based Grupo Elektra. The cash offer would give Advance America shareholders $10.50 per share, which is a 33% premium to the stock's previous closing price and values the entire company at $780 million.
Demand Media, the parent of eHow, Livestrong.com, and Trails.com, joined Advance America among the top performers, with a 26% jump of its own after a strong quarterly report. For the final quarter of the year, the online-content company managed 15% year-over-year revenue growth and adjusted earnings-per-share growth of 33%. The adjusted per-share profit of $0.08 that it showed investors was well above the $0.01 that Wall Street was looking for. The good news didn't end there, as the company also forecasted continued growth for 2012, with adjusted EPS seen finishing between $0.30 and $0.32.
Top 3 Performing Russell 3000 Companies
Weekly Price Change
Source: S&P Capital IQ. Weekly price change is Feb. 10-Feb. 17. Includes only companies with a market cap of $250 million or higher.
Also among the week's top performers were Frontier Communications (NYSE: FTR ) and Fusion-io (NYSE: FIO ) . Frontier hit the wires with some positive quarterly numbers. Revenue for the quarter fell almost 6% year over year, but adjusted earnings per share clocked in at $0.07, above the $0.05 average estimate from Wall Street analysts. Investors may have been much more tuned into Frontier's dividend announcement, though. The company slashed its dividend a hefty 47% to $0.10 per quarter, but investors appear to have been expecting a sizeable cut, and management's statement that the new 8.4% yield is "sustainable" may have been comforting.
On Friday, Fusion-io delivered a press release reiterating its policy "not to comment on market activity or rumors." Why was that necessary? Because the stock shot up as much as 19% on rumors that chip giant Intel (Nasdaq: INTC ) could be mulling a takeover offer. While the rumor mill was suggesting that a hefty bid could come from Intel, the Foolish move would be ignore the gossip and stay focused on the business and the company's underlying worth. While it can be exciting to chase a takeout target like this, the market tends to be unkind to stocks when buyout rumors prove unfounded.
That's it for this week's top-performers recap. If you're looking for some ideas for strong outperformers for the rest of year, The Motley Fool has created a brand new free report titled "The Motley Fool's Top Stock for 2012." In it, my fellow Fools reveal a top pick that's poised for explosive growth ahead. Get instant access -- it's free.