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Well folks, we can't go up every day! The broad-based S&P 500 (SNPINDEX: ^GSPC ) took it on the chin today, weighed down by a weak industrial production report, and purportedly weak retail sales figures from Wal-Mart (NYSE: WMT ) .
Industrial production dipped by 0.1% in the month of January following a 0.4% increase in Dec. 2012. Economists had been expecting industrial production to rise by 0.2%, but a 0.4% drop in manufacturing output, and a 1% drop in mining production, stymied those hopes.
On the retail front, a report from Bloomberg notes that a mid-level executive's email at Wal-Mart commented that sales in February are off to the worst start of any month in the past seven years. Wal-Mart's management team blamed the poor performance on higher payroll taxes and delayed tax returns, which reduced spending in its stores.
All told, the reports above helped push the S&P 500 down by 1.59 points (-0.10%), to close at 1,519.79. Although the mood was noticeably somber, there were still plenty of outperformers within the index today. Here's a glimpse at today's three best stocks.
As has been the trend all week, obscure companies that don't often find their way into the spotlight led the charge. Today, packaging and container supplier MeadWestvaco (NYSE: WRK ) jumped 12.5%, following the announcement that Trian Fund Management, run by activist investor Nelson Peltz, had purchased 1.6 million shares of MeadWestvaco's stock, or about a 1% stake. Peltz's Trian Fund took a 7.3% stake in Ingersoll-Rand last year, which resulted in a board seat and an eventual spinoff of Ingersoll-Rand's security technology business. Shareholders of MeadWestvaco have to be excited that Peltz and his fund may wind up offering similar strategic alternatives to MeadWestvaco.
Shares of Monster Beverage (NASDAQ: MNST ) made a monster move higher, gaining 7.1%, after rumors resurfaced that it could be the target of a takeover. According to a report from The Wall Street Journal, comments offered by various online investing sites appear to be buoying today's share price jump. Although the growth prospects of the energy market are incredibly appealing, an acquirer would have to cope with the possibility of industry-wide regulation of energy drinks if they were to purchase Monster Beverage. I'm not one to buy into rumors, and would simply prefer to stay on the sidelines at the moment.
Finally, big-box retailer Best Buy (NYSE: BBY ) hit a four-month high, advancing 7.4%, just two days after word hit the Street that co-founder Richard Schulze may forgo his buyout bid for the company for a smaller minority stake with other investors instead. While that might seem like bad news, some of the recently enacted initiatives at Best Buy, including higher promotion of mobile devices and direct-to-consumer sales, as well as price-matching, may finally be paying off. Holiday traffic on its website ranked among the highest tallies in the retail sector, and prudent spending should keep the company profitable on the bottom line. Personally, I wouldn't write off Best Buy just yet.
Is this a Monster opportunity or a value trap?
The stakes are high for Monster Beverage these days. The stock had been nothing short of a rocket, but recent developments have sent shares spiraling downward. Health scares sparked a number of investigations at the state and federal level into the energy drink's role in several fatalities. With the company's value slashed in half, investors are wondering whether Monster Beverage is a value or a bust in the fast-growing energy drink category. Find out now in our brand-new premium research report, which details all the ins and outs you need to know about Monster Beverage, and even comes with a full year of updates to boot. Click here now to claim your copy and start reading today.