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Medtronic, Inc. (MDT), Merck & Co., Inc. (MRK), AutoZone, Inc. (AZO): Today’s Three Best Stocks

Medtronic, Inc. (NYSE:MDT)There’s hardly any certainty in the market, but even I have to admit it’s become almost comical that the Nasdaq Composite has hit a new high (including intraday highs) in 17 straight sessions while the broad-based S&P 500 (INDEX:GSPC) has now risen 19 consecutive Tuesdays. It’s an odd pattern, but certainly one that’s allowed traders to build upon this year’s incredible gains.

Today, yet again, without a lack of important economic data, leadership from some of the nation’s biggest companies helped drive the S&P 500 higher. Particularly, home-improvement retail chain The Home Depot, Inc. (NYSE:HD) jumped nearly 3% after reporting better-than-expected first-quarter results and raising its full-year outlook. The Home Depot, Inc. (NYSE:HD) finds itself in the sweet spot with commercial construction rebounding and many homeowners still well underwater in their homes and looking to remodel. It’s certainly a company you can trust moving forward.

For the day, the S&P 500 finished higher by 2.87 points (0.17%) to close at 1,669.16, another new record. In spite of the tame move, three S&P 500 components had monstrous moves higher today.

Medical-device maker Medtronic, Inc. (NYSE:MDT) led the pack higher today, tacking on 4.9% after reporting its fourth-quarter results. Skeptics had been concerned with the impact of the medical-device excise tax heading into this report, but Medtronic, Inc. (NYSE:MDT) silenced them with continued steady growth. For the quarter, sales rose by 4% to $4.46 billion as adjusted EPS rose to $1.10. Comparatively, the Street was expecting just $1.03 in EPS on $4.38 billion in revenue. International sales were the big key for Medtronic, Inc. (NYSE:MDT), with its all-important pacemaker and defibrillator line of products seeing sales rise by 3%. Furthermore, emerging-market revenue rose by 14% on a constant currency basis for the quarter. As long as Medtronic, Inc. (NYSE:MDT) continues to exploit strength in burgeoning growth markets, this will remain a solid investment over the long run.

Shares of drugmaker Merck & Co., Inc. (NYSE:MRK) also vaulted higher by 4.7% following a presentation at the UBS Global Healthcare Conference yesterday. Clearly, investors and analysts alike are happy with what they heard from Merck & Co., Inc. (NYSE:MRK) and are encouraged by the pharmaceutical giant’s pipeline. However, as Foolish health-care analyst Max Macaluso points out, Merck & Co., Inc. (NYSE:MRK)’s pipeline isn’t without its uncertainties. As Max notes, the company’s insomnia drug Suvorexant certainly isn’t a lock for approval when it goes before the Food and Drug Administration later this summer.