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Today's 3 Best Stocks

Sean Williams
April 22, 2013

As we enter the heart of earnings season, the broad-based S&P 500 (INDEX: ^GSPC) shook off weak figures from the housing sector to end the day nicely higher.

According to the National Association of Realtors, existing home sales dipped 0.6% in March to a seasonally adjusted rate of 4.92 million, compared with estimates that had been calling for 5 million. One side of the coin would imply that housing sales are beginning to lose steam. Then again, the glass-is-half-full crowd would point out that tight supply is helping to boost the price of existing and remaining homes, which will ultimately help homebuilders' margins.

The big boost today came from a slew of earnings reports that continue to track better than expected. It's worth noting that through Friday of last week, 104 of 500 S&P 500 companies had reported earnings, with two-thirds topping estimates -- yet many more have missed Wall Street's revenue estimates, implying that cost-cutting appears to be the primary growth driver right now.

For the day, the S&P 500 finished higher by 7.25 points (0.47%) to close at 1,562.50. Here's a look at the three best performers within the index on this moderate up day.

Online streaming giant Netflix (NASDAQ: NFLX) topped the gainers in the S&P 500 today, gaining 6.7% on the heels of an analyst upgrade. Research firm B. Riley boosted its rating from "sell" to "neutral" on Netflix just hours ahead of its first-quarter earnings report. Given that international streaming growth boosted profits last quarter, investors will be keying in on streaming growth as well as expense control as the keys to a successful quarter. As for me, I stand by my assessment that the valuation here has gotten way out of hand.

Biotech behemoth Biogen Idec (NASDAQ: BIIB) continued its near-vertical ascent, advancing 5.9%, following positive comments from ISI Group analyst Mark Schoenebaum as reported by Adam Feuerstein of According to Schoenebaum, sales of Tecfidera, Biogen's new oral relapsing MS medication that drastically reduces the complications seen in competing drugs, hit sales levels in its first week that it took Novartis' (NYSE: NVS) Gilenya about three months to hit. If you recal