Why Macquarie Infrastructure, Ladenburg Thalmann, and Guess? Are Today's 3 Best Stocks

Economic data was again few and far between for the S&P 500 (SNPINDEX: ^GSPC  ) , but that didn't stop the index from dipping for a second straight session and tumbling to its worst loss in two weeks.

The only noteworthy report of the day came from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, which noted in its latest Job Opening and Labor Turnover Survey that U.S. employers had 4.635 million job openings in May, up from 4.464 million in April. More job openings, coupled with a falling unemployment rate, would signify that the jobs market is improving and that wage growth may soon pick up. The upside to better wage growth would be an expected boost in consumer spending, although it could also spell trouble since wage growth could lead to price hikes.

By day's end the S&P 500 shed 13.94 points (-0.70%) to close at 1,963.71, its lowest close in a week. Despite the dip, three stocks screamed higher.

Topping the list is Macquarie Infrastructure (NYSE: MIC  ) , which jumped 11.3% following an announcement after the closing bell last night that it planned to acquire the remaining 50% stake of International-Matex Tank Terminals that it doesn't already own for $1.025 billion. The deal is being financed with $910 million in cash and $115 million in stock, which values International-Matex at a 10.7 times trailing enterprise value/EBITDA multiple.


Source: Dave Young, Flickr.

Most important for shareholders, Macquarie anticipates that the transaction will be accretive to its free cash flow immediately; it boosted its free cash flow per share forecast to $4.55, representing an 11.2% increase from 2013. For fiscal 2015, Macquarie introduced an FCF per share forecast of $5.10, which would represent growth of 12.1% from its 2014 projection. As icing on the cake, the company also boosted its dividend in the second quarter to $0.95 per share, up 1.3% from the sequential first quarter. All things considered this looks like a great deal for Macquarie and its shareholders, with fairly minimal dilution. Its improved dividend payout prospects and growing free cash flow lead me to believe that modest upside may still exist.

Similarly, brokerage and advisory firm Ladenburg Thalmann (NYSEMKT: LTS  )  rose 7.6% after announcing that its subsidiary, Securities America, had agreed to purchase Dalton Strategic Investment Services, which offers client services in 18 states and boasts approximately $950 million in current client assets.

As founder Steve Dalton pointed out in a press release, the environment for smaller broker-dealers has been difficult since the recession. This would certainly imply that further consolidation could be possible across the sector, which would make Ladenburg Thalmann, and its relatively small $700 million valuation, a possible takeover candidate itself. Although no specific mention was made as to whether this transaction would be immediately accretive, I suspect it'll help Ladenburg's bottom line almost immediately.

Finally, brand-name apparel and accessories retailer Guess? (NYSE: GES  ) advanced 3.9% after receiving an upgrade to overweight from neutral from research firm Piper Jaffray. Specifically, Piper Jaffray analyst Erinn Murphy noted signs of stabilizing spending in Southern Europe and believes she sees improving wholesale orders in the region, which should manifest in better spring 2015 sales. Since Guess? generates a little more than a third of its sales from this region, Murphy believes shares could rise as much as 17% from yesterday's closing price.

As much as I believe Guess? offers consumers an affordable way to buy brand-name merchandise, even I'm not sold on a European apparel turnaround as of yet. Investors who are in Guess? for the long term have little to worry about considering that it is paying out a rock-steady 3.4% yield. However, investors with a shorter time horizon of three years or less could be at risk of downside if European or U.S. weakness rematerializes.

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