Thursday was a good day for the stock market, with Wall Streets major benchmark indexes climbing by as much as half a percent. Government reports showed that the U.S. economy grew at its fastest rate in more than two years last quarter, and investors took that as a vote of confidence even as they anticipated further gains from the passage of the Republican tax bill into law on Wednesday. Despite rich share price valuations, many analysts see no reason for the bull market to lose its momentum heading into 2018.

Good news from several companies helped to lighten the mood on Wall Street as well. Embraer (ERJ -3.50%), Voya Financial (VOYA -1.75%), and Hovnanian Enterprises (HOV -3.44%) were among the best performers on the day. Below, we'll look more closely at these companies to tell you why their stocks did so well.

Embraer and Boeing eye a linkup

Embraer shares jumped 22% after news broke that the aircraft manufacturer was in talks  with Boeing (BA -3.44%) about a possible combination. The two companies issued a press release confirming earlier rumors, with terse language simply stating that they were discussing strategic possibilities, but that it wasn't yet known what a prospective combination might look like. Neither aircraft manufacturer is likely to comment further, but those following the industry see huge possibilities for synergies and production optimization from a Boeing/Embraer merger. For Embraer, which has delivered mixed performance recently, a buyout could give investors a chance to score a quick profit, as well as the possibility of participating in Boeing's continued upward run.

Embraer E2 jet, airborne flying toard a rising or setting sun with few clouds below.

Image source: Embraer.

Voya turns orange into green

Voya  Financial shares climbed 11% following word that it is selling off its closed-block variable annuity segment, as well as its individual fixed annuity and fixed indexed annuity units, to private equity companies affiliated with major industry players including Apollo Global Management, Crestview Partners, and Reverence Capital Partners. In exchange, Voya will take an almost 10% stake in the new entity that the private equity companies will create to own those annuity businesses. By doing so, Voya estimates that it will book $1.1 billion in value, including proceeds from a related reinsurance transaction. The move not only boosts Voya's earnings potential but also frees up capital for stock repurchases, a prospect that appears to please investors.

Hovnanian holds up well

Finally, Hovnanian Enterprises shares gained 11%. The homebuilder reported its fiscal fourth-quarter financial results Thursday morning, which showed revenue declines of 10% and a nearly 50% drop in net income. Yet investors focused on some of the company's improving metrics, including a rise in gross margin and a greater number of contracts per community. Hovnanian isn't seeing the same level of success that some of its homebuilder peers have experienced recently, but it has plans to obtain more land and increase its community count in the future, with hopes for more substantial growth in the coming fiscal year.