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Concerns about the Federal Reserve's eventual end to its quantitative easing program changed from a relatively orderly sell-off yesterday to slightly more panicked movements today. By the close, the Dow Jones Industrials (DJINDICES: ^DJI ) plunged 354 points, the average's worst loss since November 2011. Not only did any single stock manage to avoid declining, but all 30 stocks posted declines of at least 1% or more, showing the depth of the negative sentiment that took over the market.
Given the way that investors have relied on the Fed throughout the market's long bullish run, it's not all that surprising to see the average pull back sharply on even the slightest hint that the Fed might stop doing what investors have been so happy to see for years. What is surprising, though, was that Disney (NYSE: DIS ) was the biggest loser in the market, falling 3.7%. Despite the media giant's success with blockbuster films based on its Marvel acquisition, Disney has had to pay escalating amounts of money to secure the rights to broadcast sports on its ESPN channel, and a Wall Street analyst expects to see competition from other networks to try to capture the most popular sports leagues and sporting events. With expirations coming in its basketball and auto-racing contracts, ESPN could face challenges that would ripple throughout the media giant.
Intel (NASDAQ: INTC ) also posted a sharp drop of about 3.25%. The stock's 25% gains since November left it poised for a pullback, but sellers are clearly ignoring Intel's prospects both in the mobile market and in its core PC business. With Intel finally gaining a place for its chips in a major mobile device, and with its recent moves to try to make PCs relevant again by emphasizing convenient form factors that blend full-power functionality and portability, investors shouldn't underestimate the chip giant's ability to regain its full strength in the semiconductor market.
Finally, although there was no lack of losing stocks in the broader market, gold mining companies took a huge hit in light of a plunge in the price of gold bullion that sent the yellow metal convincingly below the $1,300 per ounce level. Newmont Mining (NYSE: NEM ) , Barrick Gold (NYSE: ABX ) , and a host of other miners hit new 52-week lows, with Newmont falling 7%, and Barrick giving up 8%. If interest rates continue to rise, then the opportunity cost of owning gold will go up with them, making investors less prone to hold onto the metal, and potentially marking a long-term reversal in the more than decade-long bull market for gold.
Gold has outshined the stock market with strong returns since 2000, but more recently has given way to big declines. The Motley Fool's new free report, "The Best Way to Play Gold Right Now," dissects the recent volatility, and provides a guide for gold investing. Click here to read the full report today!