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Maybe it's the summer heat, but the markets seem stuck in limbo. Uncertainty from the Federal Reserve, Europe, and China continue to keep day-to-day activity low, with the S&P 500 (INDEX: ^GSPC  ) trickling down 0.23%.

On the day, a few minor storylines drove prices slightly. The U.S. Commerce Department revealed that retail sales dropped 0.5% in June after a 0.2% loss in May. The news surprised analysts, who expected a 0.2% increase, and shows continued struggles for the American economy. The overall market being 70% consumer-driven, shares understandably dropped after the report. In the meantime, the IMF slashed its growth forecast, fearing that Europe could stunt growth in emerging markets.

Headlines like today's will continue to play a minor role against the major headlines concerning problems in the global economies. Until these stories see some closure, investors are not likely to take a definitive stance. However, a few individual stocks continue to see daily swings. Here are the big winners and losers on the day.

No stock came close to First Solar (Nasdaq: FSLR  ) and its 5.72% jump. Investors applauded progress on the 290-megawatt Agua Caliente project, which will be the world's largest photovoltaic power plant upon completion. The project passed the two-thirds completion benchmark and received praise from all involved parties. First Solar, which along with NRG Energy and MidAmerican Solar is running the project, created more than 400 jobs for the construction period.

Oil stocks also spiked across the board today because oil prices also jumped, and Phillips 66 (NYSE: PSX  ) led the charge upward with a 3.32% gain. The company also got a boost from Oppenheimer, which initiated coverage on Phillips with an outperform rating. Shares of the company are now up approximately $1 after ConocoPhillips decided to separate its refining and chemical side this past April.

None of the S&P components took the hit as hard as Alpha Natural Resources (NYSE: ANR  ) . Downgraded by BMO Capital from an outperform all the way down to an underperform, the company stumbled more than 10%. The bigger news, though, came from the industry overall. Patriot Coal recently declared bankruptcy, and billionaire coal investor Wilbur Ross recently gave the industry a huge thumbs-down for years to come. Shares could suffer the consequences for an extended period, but we'll get a more specific glimpse from its Aug. 8 earnings report.

Broad industry factors and a BMO downgrade tripped shares of Dean Foods (NYSE: DF  ) as well today. The stock lost 7.58% on the day as rising costs continue to plague the sector. A nationwide drought is ravaging large portions of the farm production community, and the light supply spiked food costs. This led to the BMO downgrade from outperform down to market perform, although the stock still boasts a 27% gain on the year.

Investor takeaway
Until the market does find a direction, many investors will benefit from making safe, income-generating picks. But big-name stocks with juicy dividends litter indices like the Dow and S&P, and many investors wonder which way to turn. The Motley Fool is offering a free report to give investors the edge in finding which stocks stand out. Find out the three Dow stocks that dividend investors need, completely free.

Will Chavey owns no shares of the stocks mentioned above. The Motley Fool owns shares of Dean Foods. We Fools don't all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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Today's Market

updated Moments ago Sponsored by:
DOW 18,223.03 77.32 0.43%
S&P 500 2,151.33 10.17 0.47%
NASD 5,309.83 52.43 1.00%

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Related Tickers

10/24/2016 4:56 PM
^GSPC $2151.33 Up +10.17 +0.47%
S&P 500 INDEX CAPS Rating: No stars
ANRZQ $0.00 Down +0.00 +0.00%
Alpha Natural Reso… CAPS Rating: **
DF $16.73 Up +0.12 +0.72%
Dean Foods CAPS Rating: **
FSLR $40.87 Down -1.38 -3.27%
First Solar CAPS Rating: ***