As a refresher, folks, that red arrow next to the broad-based S&P 500 (SNPINDEX:^GSPC) is just a reminder that the stock market can't go up every single day despite the recent popular belief that it can.
Mounting uncertainty over whether or not the Federal Reserve would begin paring back its $85 billion bond-buying program consisting of long-term Treasuries and mortgage-backed securities, and a 9.8% drop in mortgage applications last week proved more than enough to send stocks broadly lower today. The end of QE3 could usher in slightly higher interest rates even with the Fed keeping its target Fed Funds lending rate at historic lows. That, in turn, could adversely affect the housing sector's recovery and the banks that generate mortgage loans.
All told, the S&P 500 ended well off its session lows but still finished down by 11.70 points (-0.70%) to close at 1,648.36. In spite of today's weakness, three stocks bucked the downtrend and did their best to try to bring the S&P 500 back into positive territory.
Leading the charge higher is CME Group (NASDAQ: CME), which advanced 3.3% after exploring a possible sale of its New York Mercantile Exchange building. CME has considered leasing back a portion of the building to run its energy trading operations out of, or it may just move those operations to another building in Manhattan altogether. This announcement also comes on the heels of news that Treasury futures volume hit an all-time record yesterday. With CME looking for ways to maximize shareholder value in an otherwise tepid trading environment, I'd call today's move encouraging.
Following closely behind CME Group was nitrogen and phosphate-based fertilizer maker CF Industries (NYSE:CF), rising 2.7%. While no company-specific news led CF higher, it's widely anticipated that phosphate pricing will stabilize and costs retreat in the second half of the year. Furthermore, the long-term investing thesis behind fertilizer companies is solid with a growing population needing more food and farmers wanting higher yields from their finite crop fields. As long as commodities don't completely dive, CF Industries is a solid name to consider in this sector.
Finally, gold miner Newmont Mining (NYSE:NEM) matched CME's gain of 3.3% on the heels of strength in the spot price of gold, which is up $13 an ounce at the time of this writing. The largest gold producers, Newmont and peer Barrick Gold, have both struggled recently with writedowns of assets that are simply too expensive to build out with gold prices in free-fall. Every tick higher in spot gold is a little bit closer to making extensive exploration more worthwhile. Furthermore, many of these gold companies have tied their dividends into the spot price of gold. The higher the spot price heads, the bigger the dividend shareholders can expect in their pocket.
Fool contributor Sean Williams has no material interest in any companies mentioned in this article. You can follow him on CAPS under the screen name TMFUltraLong, track every pick he makes under the screen name TrackUltraLong, and check him out on Twitter, where he goes by the handle @TMFUltraLong.
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