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I know you don't often hear this, but it was a relatively quiet day with regard to economic data and on the earnings front.
Leading the broad-based S&P 500 (SNPINDEX: ^GSPC ) higher was a continuation move for Apple, which has rallied steadily since it announced a 500% increase to its share repurchase program and increased its dividend by 15%. Investors have been super-critical of Apple's supposed "lack of innovation" since the debut of the iPad, yet the company continues to deliver record sales volumes and practically unmatched cash generation.
For the day, the S&P 500 edged higher by 3.08 points (0.19%) to close at 1,617.50, another all-time high. Although today's move was tame compared with some of the moves we've witnessed recently, three companies vastly outperformed to the upside.
Iron ore miner Cliffs Natural Resources (NYSE: CLF ) topped the list with a 5.5% gain after an analyst at FBR Capital upgraded the company to "outperform" from "market perform." After a meeting with management, analyst Mitesh Thakkar feels confident that Cliffs could sell assets to raise capital and can mitigate its cost exposure enough to make it a good rebound candidate. As long as China keeps building, iron ore demand should remain strong, which should ultimately buoy prices and profits. This is certainly a name I'd keep a close eye on.
Large money center bank, and personal portfolio holding, Bank of America (NYSE: BAC ) tacked on 5.2% after it and mortgage insurer MBIA (NYSE: MBI ) agreed to a $1.7 billion settlement stemming from supposedly misleading loans issued by Bank of America subsidiary Countrywide Financial and insured by MBIA during the financial crisis. Under the terms of the agreement, Bank of America will fork over $1.6 billion in cash to MBIA and about $100 million in MBIA bonds the bank currently owns. This settlement will keep MBIA solvent and removes more uncertainty from Bank of America's long list of potential settlements.
Finally, refiner Tesoro (NYSE: TSO ) advanced 4.1% just a few days after reporting its first-quarter results and following a Barron's article over the weekend that painted Tesoro as one of the most attractive stocks in the refining sector. Tesoro's outperformance is pretty easy to figure out, given that refining margins are up by double digits and tight cost controls saw expenses fall by 2% during the first quarter. As long as oil prices remain range-bound, refiners like Tesoro are likely to benefit.
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