With few earnings reports on the docket and no major U.S. economic data crossing the wires today, trading in the broad-based S&P 500 (SNPINDEX:^GSPC) would be best quantified as "indifferent."
The single biggest driving factor in the index today is the highly anticipated Worldwide Developers Conference, which allows tech companies to show off their latest gadgets and software. As you might anticipate, Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) was the most closely watched company, especially with its stock languishing lately despite continued healthy profits. At WWDC, Apple unveiled its new mobile operating system, iOS7, its new desktop OS X 10.9 (also known as Maverick), its new music service known as iTunes Radio, and a new cylinder-shaped Mac Pro. Apple hopes to show Wall Street and investors that it still has plenty of years of leading innovation ahead of it.
When all was said and done, the S&P 500 ended fractionally lower by 0.57 points (-0.03%) to close at 1,642.81. Despite the tame move in the index, three companies managed explosive moves to the upside.
Although solar panel producer First Solar (NASDAQ:FSLR) had no company-specific news today, it was the top performer in the index, up 6.2%. The story for U.S.-based solar stocks only continues to improve as protective tariffs in the U.S. are making domestic solar producers considerably more competitive relative to cheaper Chinese solar panels. In addition, U.S. solar panel efficiency is superior in many cases to China-based solar panels, making the choice easy for U.S. businesses. As the Obama administration continues to push for greater energy independence, the reliance on solar energy in the U.S. is only going to grow.
The story is similar, yet oh so different, in the for-profit education sector with Apollo Group (NASDAQ:APOL), which added 4.4% on the day. While no company-specific news was present, this seems more like an aberration than a reversal of fortune for Apollo. For-profit education companies have come under increasing scrutiny by federal regulators for the way they market to students, make loans, and make suggestions about future employment opportunities. I don't foresee these challenges abating anytime soon, which makes days like today a potential good opportunity to tuck your tail between your legs and sell.
Finally, Monsanto (NYSE:MON) more than made up for the lack of news in Apollo and First Solar with a double dose of good news that sent shares up 4.5%. First, we received word that the U.S. Court of Appeals affirmed a decision to throw out a lawsuit by organic farmers and seed growers that challenged the patents of its genetically modified seeds. Second, Monsanto rose after reports circulated that China may approve Monsanto's genetically modified soybeans for importation. With its technology protected domestically and other rapidly growing nations with a need for higher crop yields turning to Monsanto, things are starting to look even better for shareholders.
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.
The Motley Fool recommends and owns shares of Apple. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.