Thursday was another quiet day for the stock market, but once again, some major market benchmarks pushed further into record territory and refused to give up ground despite their huge rally over the past three months. Investors are becoming increasingly confident that pro-business initiatives from the federal government will pan out in the long run, and that boost in confidence in itself is helping to drive economic activity. In addition, some good news from particular sectors of the market helped pull the broader indexes higher. First Solar (NASDAQ:FSLR), GNC Holdings (NYSE:GNC), and HP (NYSE:HPQ) were among the top performers on the day. Below, we'll look more closely at these stocks to tell you why they did so well.

First Solar bounces back from a big hit

Share of First Solar jumped 11%, making back all of their lost ground from Wednesday following the release of the company's fourth-quarter earnings report. The solar giant was the worst performer in the S&P 500 on Wednesday, as many investors focused on the huge GAAP loss that First Solar posted due to restructuring charges. Yet today's rebound seemed to acknowledge the fact that First Solar has a strong enough balance sheet to bridge the gap between the winding down of its Series 4 equipment line and the conversion to the new Series 6 line. Despite some short-term challenges stemming from the company's having skipped over its previously planned Series 5 line, long-term investors in First Solar seem to have regained confidence that the solar giant's long-range strategic outlook remains favorable despite the quarterly report.

Large solar array project.

Image source: First Solar.

GNC gets some insider interest

Shares of GNC Holdings gained 11% on news that the hard-hit stock got some buying interest from corporate insiders. In particular, CEO Robert Moran and non-executive Chairman Michael Hines reported large purchases of GNC stock to the Securities and Exchange Commission, with Moran spending about $5 million to acquire 592,000 shares, while Hines paid more than $1 million to buy 125,000 shares of stock. The moves dramatically increased the amount that Moran and Hines have invested in GNC, and investors took the purchases as a sign of the two insiders' confidence in the nutritional retailer's strategy to build positive momentum going forward. Even with the gains, though, GNC stock has still lost more than two-thirds of its value since last April.

HP enjoys a PC bump

Finally, HP stock gained 9%. The technology hardware specialist said that an improving PC market helped support its quarterly results, which included a 3.6% rise in revenue and flat earnings from continuing operations compared to year-ago figures. Particularly strong demand for notebook computers and workstations was able to offset flat sales from desktop machines and falling revenue related to printers. CEO Dion Weisler was pleased with the solid performance during the quarter, and HP's performance in what has generally been a tepid market environment suggests that the company is taking away market share from its competitors. If HP can continue to keep its costs under control as much as possible and find new opportunities to use its reputation to drive sales, then the stock could have further to climb in the months ahead.

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