Last Friday, the Dow Jones Industrial Average (INDEX: ^DJI ) erased its July gains with a big-time loss. Today, it dropped 0.79% to suffer back-to-back triple-digit losses for the first time since April. The S&P 500 (INDEX: ^GSPC ) fared even worse, losing 0.89% after dropping more than 2% in trading's early hours. As usual, Europe caused big problems.
Spain's GDP dropped even faster in the first quarter, helping send bond yields up to record highs on mounting concern over the country's ability to repay its debt. Ten-year bond yields hit 7.57%, while the euro continued to fall against the dollar. Elsewhere, Italy banned shorting stocks, rarely a policy of an optimistic government.
The rest of the world also offered little hope for optimism. The Chinese central bank cautioned that more slowdowns could be in the works, and U.S. reports found lower- and middle-class struggles at or near Great Depression highs. For the past couple of months, bullish and bearish news have played each other to a stalemate, and the market continues to await more definitive news to help eliminate some of this daily volatility.
Some strong earnings reports were beginning to push markets sustainably in the right direction, but today even that trend seemed to reverse.
Fast-food giant McDonald's (NYSE: MCD ) dropped almost 3% after it disappointed with its report today, just one of many companies that counts European struggles as the anchor to their performance. The big loss came on the back of a strengthening dollar. The company collects the majority of its revenue from Europe, which means those sales translate into less money domestically if the dollar strengthens. Net income fell 4%, but top-line growth still increased, as did earnings before performing currency adjustments. Currency trends will continue to play a short-term role, but the stock should remain profitable if the company continues to grow sales.
Fellow restaurant services competitor Chipotle (NYSE: CMG ) slipped another 3.46%. Since closing at $403.86 on Thursday, the stock has lost nearly 25%. The company still increased revenue and smashed earnings expectations, but growth slowed on a stock still priced for huge future expansion. An analyst downgrade from buy to hold helped induce the sell-off as well.
On the flipside, shares of NRG Energy soared more than 8% after it announced plans to buy rival GenOn Energy (NYSE: GEN ) for $1.7 billion. GenOn shares justifiably gained almost 26%, as these deals typically feature a sizeable premium on stock prices, and Barclays upgraded NRG from equal weight to overweight. Investors also applauded a dividend increasing $0.36 per share on an annualized basis.
Still waiting for that catalyst
To say that investors are uncertain right now would be an understatement. That makes sense, too, with days like today where the markets continue to search for a more definitive outlook. But investors can jump ahead of the game by looking at one definitive event: the presidential election. The Fool has identified four stocks primed to grow after the results this November, two for a Republican victory and two for a Democratic one. It's completely free, so get your copy before it's gone.