It was certainly a topsy-turvy day for the broad-based S&P 500 (SNPINDEX:^GSPC), with profit-takers battling against optimistic merger and acquisition advocates all day long.
As is to be expected from a market that's gone almost precipitously higher, profit-sellers did everything they could to take charge and send the markets lower today. However, Internet advertising giant Yahoo! (NASDAQ:YHOO) had other plans, announcing before the bell that it was going to acquire media network Tumblr for $1.1 billion. The addition of Tumblr is expected to grow Yahoo!'s audience by 50% and could be the major boost Yahoo! needs to get more mobile viewers and reverse a trend of weakening ad revenue. Even more than that, M&A activity in excess of $1 billion in value is viewed as a sign of strength in the economy, as it signals to investors that companies are looking to expand.
When the battle was over, the pessimists had won -- albeit by a small margin. For the day, the S&P 500 finished lower by 1.18 points (-0.07%) to close at 1,666.29. Despite the fractional move lower, the following three companies shot higher like a rocket.
Shining brighter than the rest of the pack, yet again, was solar panel producer First Solar (NASDAQ:FSLR), which tacked on 9.8% across a broad rally in the solar sector after rival JA Solar topped earnings estimates. Solar panel prices and production costs are finally coming into perfect alignment, where upgrading to solar panels is making sense for more and more businesses and government agencies. First Solar, though, has the unique advantage of being very well capitalized, unlike many of its Chinese counterparts. Tack on a U.S. tariff on imported Chinese panels, and First Solar's in good shape to capitalize on President Obama's push toward U.S. energy independence.
Oil and natural gas producer WPX Energy (NYSE:WPX) turned in an equally impressive day, jumping 7%, after a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission disclosed a minority 6.4% position in the company by Taconic Capital Advisors. With a minority, but still sizable, stake, it's expected that Taconic may have ideas up its sleeve to help increase shareholder value. If you recall, I examined WPX last month and certainly found it to be an attractive investment, given its abundant natural gas assets and highly lucrative oil-rich Bakken assets. This could be just the tip of the iceberg for WPX.
Finally, gold miner Newmont Mining (NYSE:NEM) advanced 5.4% as spot gold broke a seven-day losing streak and headed higher by better than $25 an ounce as of this writing. Miners like Newmont are reliant on steady gold prices to build out new mines. With gold prices in free-fall, it's causing many gold producers to rethink their game plan, including Newmont. Another factor worth considering here is that Newmont's dividend is tied directly to the price of gold. The lower gold goes, the less of a dividend investors can expect.