Why Protective Life, Broadcom, and American Realty Capital Healthcare Are Today's 3 Best Stocks

All the king's horses and all the king's men, along with every short-seller on Earth, may not be able to bring the S&P 500 (SNPINDEX: ^GSPC  ) down again. OK, perhaps that's a bit of an exaggeration, but practically any midmorning weakness of late has been met with late-day buying, eventually pushing the S&P to another green close.

The big news today that pushed the market modestly higher was the release of the Institute for Supply Management purchasing managers' index, which came in with a reading of 55.4, up from 54.9 in April. The institute had to correct the number twice during the day, after initially issuing a reading of 53.2 and then 56. The slight improvement (in the correct results) from April demonstrates that factory orders are stronger than economists have expected and lend credence that this rally could continue higher.

On the flip side, construction spending for April grew by just 0.2% compared to the 0.6% growth witnessed in March. Some might view the month-over-month dip as disappointing, but investors should also consider that construction spending surged in March following the extremely cold winter, so matching that month's level of growth in April was likely going to be nearly impossible. I personally believe the construction and homebuilding sector as a whole is walking on thin ice, but for now the data would seem to support slow but steady growth.

By day's end, the S&P 500 trudged higher by 1.40 points (0.07%) for yet another record closing high of 1,924.97.

Leading the charge today was Protective Life (NYSE: PL  ) a financial services company in the U.S. primarily known for underwriting life insurance policies. Shares of Protective Life surged 11.9% after The Wall Street Journal noted that Dai-Ichi Life Insurance could be preparing to bid nearly $4.9 billion for the company. Protective Life chose not to comment on the matter, leaving investors to ponder whether this rumor will come to fruition, or if they'll eventually be burned. As my Foolish colleague Alex Planes noted earlier today, even if the deal doesn't go through it makes sense to keep an eye on Protective Life as it has consistently topped Wall Street's estimates in recent months, and because insurance companies have a way of boosting premiums as needed to ensure profitability.

Source: Jez, Flickr.

Health property-based real estate investment trust Ventas (NYSE: VTR  )  also announced that it would purchase American Realty Capital Healthcare Trust (NASDAQ: HCT  ) in a combined cash and stock deal that sent ARC Healthcare shares higher by 9.7%. Under the terms of the deal, ARC Healthcare shareholders can receive either 0.1688 Ventas common shares or $11.33 per share in cash, with the cash portion of the deal being capped at 10% of ARC Healthcare's outstanding shares. The boards of both companies have already approved the transaction. As noted by Ventas, the deal will be immediately accretive to its funds from operations (music the ears of Ventas' shareholders) and should add at least $0.10 in funds from operations in 2015. With the company so recently debuting on the Nasdaq, it's tough to tell if ARC Healthcare shareholders are getting the best possible deal. However, given the premium paid, the cash-and-stock option for existing shareholders, and Ventas' projection that the buy will be immediately FFO accretive, I'd say everyone came out a winner today.

Finally, shares of Broadcom (NASDAQ: BRCM  ) , a provider of semiconductor solutions to the wired and wireless communications industry, advanced 9.3% after the company announced its intentions to explore the sale of (or wind down) its wireless business.


Source: CannedTuna, Flickr.

Broadcom has generally catered to what's now considered to be older wireless technologies and, as such, it has has been left in the dust by its mobile communications peers. Selling the wireless business would dramatically lower its capital expenditures and could ultimately boost margins and make Broadcom more profitable. While its top-line growth implies rather underwhelming growth prospects over the near-term, Broadcom's $1.5 billion in net cash and 1.5% dividend yield are certainly enticing enough for long-term investors to give this company a closer look.

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