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Why Baidu, First Solar, and Alpha Natural Resources Jumped Today

The stock market bounced back Tuesday, showing modest gains after two straight days of dramatic losses. The tech-heavy Nasdaq got most of the benefit from the bounce, climbing almost 1%, while other market indexes had to make do with much smaller gains. Nevertheless, for investors in Baidu (NASDAQ: BIDU  ) , First Solar (NASDAQ: FSLR  ) , and Alpha Natural Resources (NASDAQOTH: ANRZQ  ) , today's gains were especially sweet, as those stocks were among the best performers in the market Tuesday.

Baidu gained 5% on a strong day for Chinese stocks in general, with the added bonus of reports of a possible deal between its Qunar travel website and industry rival International (NASDAQ: CTRP  ) . Although discussions are reportedly at an early stage and could involve anything from a takeover to a strategic partnership, Baidu could benefit greatly from taking a bigger role in the online travel industry. As more Chinese residents become more prosperous and can afford to travel, the online trip-planning portal will be increasingly lucrative. Moreover, using Baidu's search prowess will give any combined entity a valuable competitive advantage.

First Solar rose 7%, leading all of its peers in the S&P. The momentum-sensitive stock gained back all the ground it lost late last week and yesterday, as shareholders look favorably on the combination of First Solar's strong presence in the utility-scale solar market and the company's new plans to work itself into the residential and small-commercial market. Despite concerns about the sustainability of utility-scale project sales, First Solar has the financial resources and the experience to challenge its solar rivals. Still, bullish investors will want to watch closely to make sure that First Solar's ambitious earnings guidance for the next few years won't prove unreachable.

Alpha Natural Resources also picked up 7%, with coal stocks in general reacting favorably to positive comments from various players in the industry. Today another of Alpha Natural's peers raised its guidance for coal production by roughly 3%, citing higher demand for thermal coal used for electricity production. The outlook for metallurgical coal used in steel production isn't yet as strong, but today's positive performance in China could also change that outlook in the long run. With Alpha Natural Resources beaten down recently, even a glimmer of good news could be enough to keep it and the rest of the sector moving higher for the foreseeable future.

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Dan Caplinger

Dan Caplinger has been a contract writer for the Motley Fool since 2006. As the Fool's Director of Investment Planning, Dan oversees much of the personal-finance and investment-planning content published daily on With a background as an estate-planning attorney and independent financial consultant, Dan's articles are based on more than 20 years of experience from all angles of the financial world.

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