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Today's 3 Best Stocks

By Sean Williams - Apr 19, 2013 at 5:15PM

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A roundup of the day's best performers within the S&P 500, and what their moves mean for investors.

With no economic data on the docket, investors relied on the ramp-up in second-quarter earnings to drive the broad-based S&P 500 (^GSPC -1.72%) noticeably higher today.

Largely ignoring the disappointing results from IBM, which were a major drag on the Dow Jones Industrial Average, reports from the tech sector, especially Google, helped push the overall market higher. Google, which acts as a good gauge of enterprise activity and advertising, saw its revenue soar by 31.2% (21.7% excluding its Motorola acquisition), while total traffic acquisition costs rose by just 18%. Ad revenue continues to be a sticking point, but Google's strength was enough to lift the tech sector and tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite.

For the day, the S&P 500 ended higher by 13.64 points (0.88%), to close at 1,555.25. As you might expect, many of today's top performers were fueled by better-than-expected earnings reports.

Today's top performer was fresh-Mex casual dining chain Chipotle Mexican Grill (CMG -2.73%), which rose 11.5% after reporting better-than-expected first-quarter results. For the quarter, revenue rose 13%, to $726.8 million; however, this was mostly the result of new store openings. Same-store sales for the chain rose by just 1%. Profit jumped to $2.45 per share, well ahead of estimates and significantly higher than the $1.97 it reported in the year-ago period. Following the report, brokerage firm Northland Securities upgraded Chipotle to "buy," and upped its price target to $400. As for me, I'm still skeptical of Chipotle's growth prospects given its flat-to-low single-digit same-store sales growth projections and rising food costs.

Credit services company Capital One Financial (COF -2.28%) turned in an equally strong performance, rising 6.4% after reporting its first-quarter earnings results. Although net revenue of $5.55 billion failed to meet the Street's expectations, Capital One barreled higher after its $1.79 in EPS pushed past the $1.61 analysts projected. The big push higher -- and the reason that two Wall Street analysts raised their full-year EPS estimates on the company -- had to do with its 35% growth in net interest income. Although Capital One is exposed to loan deterioration if the economy weakens, right now, everything appears to be falling its way.

Finally, snack maker Mondelez International (MDLZ -3.44%) jumped 5.3% after activist investor Nelson Peltz disclosed positions worth more than $900 million in Mondelez and PepsiCo. (PEP -3.19%). Rumors have been swirling that Peltz would like to see Mondelez and PepsiCo's Frito-Lay snack division combined. These rumors were further perpetuated when it was learned that PepsiCo's board has held meetings with Peltz's Trian Fund to listen to their ideas. Mondelez shareholders are in good shape either way thanks to the company's exposure to emerging markets, but the situation bears close monitoring nonetheless.

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Stocks Mentioned

S&P 500 Index - Price Return (USD) Stock Quote
S&P 500 Index - Price Return (USD)
$4,018.58 (-1.72%) $-70.27
Chipotle Mexican Grill, Inc. Stock Quote
Chipotle Mexican Grill, Inc.
$1,285.98 (-2.73%) $-36.08
Capital One Financial Corporation Stock Quote
Capital One Financial Corporation
$117.66 (-2.28%) $-2.75
Pepsico, Inc. Stock Quote
Pepsico, Inc.
$168.89 (-3.19%) $-5.57
Mondelez International, Inc. Stock Quote
Mondelez International, Inc.
$63.46 (-3.44%) $-2.26

*Average returns of all recommendations since inception. Cost basis and return based on previous market day close.

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