Bernanke smash... your market performance! The S&P 500 (INDEX: ^GSPC) put on a rather yo-yo performance this afternoon following the Federal Reserve's update to the world on its intentions for the upcoming month. With economic growth looking "modest" for the time being, the Fed will continue to hold open the firehose of QE-infinity, with $85 billion in monthly bond purchases continuing without any timetable for termination while interest rates remain as low as possible. Second verse, same as the first!
This stimulative noise from Bernanke and friends didn't do anything to move the S&P 500 in the end -- the index closed the day with a very narrow loss of just 0.2 points, down 0.01% for the day, after reaching as high as 1,698.38 following the Fed news. That level that would have been good for an 0.8% gain instead of the mediocre underperformance we got instead. Of course, some stocks stood head and shoulders over the mediocre pack today, as might be expected here in the thick of earnings season. Let's take a look at the best S&P stocks of today's market now.
Cybersecurity software specialist Symantec (NASDAQ: SYMC) was today's standout, closing out its trading session with a 9.6% gain, narrowly missing out on becoming the only double-digit gainer of the last day of July. Symantec's fiscal first-quarter results showed a double beat: $1.71 billion in revenue against the $1.64 billion consensus and earnings of $0.44 per share against a consensus expectation of $0.36 in EPS. However, the company's forward guidance looks a little soft, as Symantec now projects revenue in the range of $1.65 billion to $1.69 billion, and expects EPS to end up between $0.42 and $0.44. Both projections were below Wall Street's consensus, which was looking for $1.71 billion on the top line and $0.45 in EPS. At least Symantec's full-year revenue guidance of $7.04 billion leads the Street's $6.96 billion expectation.
GPS maker Garmin (NASDAQ: GRMN) ran up a surprising 7.6% gain to finish second in today's S&P rage. That leaves the stock in positive territory for the first time this year, but still nearly 15% below its position of five years ago. Garmin cleared a rather low bar of expectations today by posting second-quarter results of $696.6 million in revenue and $0.76 in EPS. Wall Street had expected only $665.8 million in revenue and $0.66 in EPS, both of which were well below the year-ago quarter's result. However, guidance for the full year is unchanged, and both the revenue range of $2.5 billion to $2.6 billion and the EPS range of $2.30 to $2.40 are in line with analyst projections -- that is to say, a bit below 2012's results, even on a GAAP basis. The stock is cheap-ish and its dividend is high, but growth appears to be a thing of the past.
Rounding out our top three is cable giant Comcast (NASDAQ: CMCSA) closing with a 5.6% pop for the day thanks to outperformance by its NBCUniversal segment. Comcast reported second-quarter revenue of $16.27 billion against a $16 billion expectation, and its earnings of $0.65 per share were slightly better than the $0.65 average of analyst expectations. The company's Broadcast Television segment grew its revenue by 11.6%, driven all but exclusively by 13% higher ad revenue. Both Morningstar and S&P itself came out in favor of Comcast's stock after its earnings report. Morningstar called the entertainment leader stock's P/E of 19 "the most attractive within the U.S. telecom sector." S&P reiterated its buy rating as well. Less noted but also nice to know was the fact that Comcast added 187,000 broadband subscribers in the second quarter, which was its best result in five years.
How will the S&P 500 respond to the Fed's decisions once investors have had a day to digest the information? Which unexpected winner will climb to the top of the S&P's heap of 500 stocks tomorrow? Stay tuned to find out!
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