It was a mostly flat day for stocks, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average (INDEX: ^DJI) gaining 0.17%. But some names surged more than others. These were the three biggest gainers.


Today's Price Change

Alcoa (NYSE: AA) 2.4%
Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT) 2.4%
Intel (Nasdaq: INTC) 2.3%

Why, you ask, did shares of these three companies surge?

Where credit is due
Alcoa continued to add to the impressive 6.7% gain it enjoyed yesterday as a result of strong economic data out of the U.S. manufacturing sector, as well as Germany and China. Today, Chrysler, Ford (NYSE: F), and General Motors posted strong December sales figures and gave positive outlooks for the future. Ford's economist warned that a weak European economy may present some challenges, but she suggested that strong economic momentum could mean sales will be more likely to come in higher in the 13.5 million- to 14.5 million-vehicle range. A robust auto recovery would be a boon to the world's largest aluminum producer.

Microsoft may be enjoying a halo effect from Yahoo!'s announcement that it has named a new CEO. The two companies have been partnered up to compete against Google since around the time Yahoo! rebuffed Microsoft's buyout offer in 2008. Microsoft also filed a lawsuit against a British CD retailer for allegedly making counterfeit copies of Windows.

Dow tech stocks in general have been doing well so far this week. An analyst recently upgraded Cisco, arguing that the problems it faced in 2011 will be short-lived. Intel, Microsoft, and Cisco appear to be the beneficiaries of this optimism.

The latest economic data is certainly important news and a sign that the economy may finally be starting to turn the corner, albeit slowly and precariously. Alcoa, Microsoft, and Intel all beat the market today. But if you're interested in one stock that our chief investment officer picked to crush the market in 2012, check out our brand new report, "The Motley Fool's Top Stock for 2012." It highlights a company that is revolutionizing commerce in Latin America. For a limited time, you can get instant access to the name of this company by for free