The big bad short-sellers have huffed and puffed with all their might, but once again, the broad-based S&P 500 (SNPINDEX:^GSPC) proved resilient, powering higher, and erasing all of yesterday's losses.
Today's biggest source of optimism was also yesterday's biggest concern: commentary from the Federal Reserve. The release of today's Federal meeting minutes demonstrates that its members have discussed the potential for raising the federal funds rate in the future, but none have come to an agreement on what tools will be necessary to accomplish that in an orderly fashion. The Fed has made it clear that it doesn't want to disturb the stock market or economy, if possible, while raising rates; that inspired some level of calm in investors today.
Also boosting the market was the weekly release from the Mortgage Bankers Association, which showed that new mortgage loan and refinancing activity increased 0.9% last week. This comes on the heels of a gain of 3.6% in the previous week, and a better than 5% advance the week before that. The housing industry needs to see continued strength in loan originations if it's to have any confidence that the winding down of QE3 is going to be a good thing for the economy and its sector. The past three weeks have certainly been a pleasant surprise.
By day's end, the S&P 500 had managed to vault to the upside by 15.20 points (0.81%), to close at 1,888.03. However, if you thought these gains were solid, wait till you see the gains from today's three best stocks.
Leading the pack to the upside was Chinese wind-turbine producer China Ming Yang Wind Power Group (NYSE: MY), which surged 36.5% after reporting its first-quarter results.
For the quarter, China Ming Yang produced an equivalent project output of 386 MW, a 57% increase over the 245.5 MW it produced in the year-ago period, with revenue rising 52%, to $196.9 million. Gross profit rose by a little more than 100%, to $30.9 million, as gross margin expanded 460 basis points to 15.7%. Overall, diluted EPS came in at $0.24. What makes these results so phenomenal is that there's no analyst coverage on China Ming Yang, so investors can truly bask in organic year-over-year growth. With China's pollution problem getting out of hand in its major cities, China Ming Yang and other alternative energy companies could stand to play a huge role in electricity generation for decades to come.
Following closely behind China Ming Yang, and sticking with our China-based theme, was solar-products provider Trina Solar (NYSE: TSL), which scorched 30.9% higher after reporting better-than-expected first-quarter results, and sticking to its full-year guidance. For the quarter, Trina reported a 15.4% decrease in net revenue, to $444.8 million, from the sequential fourth-quarter, but increased its gross margin by 550 basis points, to 20.6%. This led to a 73.5% improvement in net income from Q4 2013, and a profit of $0.37 per share. By comparison, Wall Street was only expecting Trina Solar to deliver a profit of $0.03, meaning it thoroughly crushed estimates. Most importantly, Trina reiterated its full-year guidance of photovoltaic module shipments totaling 3.6 GW to 3.8 GW. While this move marks its best earnings-based performance in quite some time, the company still has a monstrously high debt load of $877.1 million and, without the full support of the Chinese government, the company likely wouldn't still be around because of its debt. In my opinion, this makes Trina a very risky bet going forward.
Finally, mortgage servicing and fleet management service provider PHH Corp. (NYSE: PHH) gained 12.4% after a Reuters report surfaced that alleges Element Financial, a Canadian equipment financing company, is offering $1.35 billion in cash to purchase PHH's fleet-leasing business. Reuters notes that details haven't been finalized, but that an announcement could be pending within the next two weeks. Given PHH's recent earnings struggles, getting rid of its fleet management services segment may not be such a bad idea, and could allow it to focus solely on its mortgage business. However, until any deal is finalized, and given its recent profit struggles, I suggest that investors pass on PHH at these levels.