Rates, rates, rates. The very fear that interest rates had reached their trough sent them through the roof last week, and today's sluggish market was caused in part by related concerns from the Orient. The Chinese stock market fell more than 6% today, officially crossing into bear market territory as investors worry that record-high money market rates in China will cause a cash squeeze. Wall Street took notice, and the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES: ^DJI ) lost 139 points, or 0.9%, to end at 14,659. Bank of America (NYSE: BAC ) stock ended as the largest blue-chip decliner.
As for outperformers, only five Dow stocks ended in the black on Monday, with Johnson & Johnson (NYSE: JNJ ) leading the way on 1.7% gains. There wasn't anything in particular that made the health-care giant immune to today's losses, but it sure doesn't hurt that the company is one of the largest, most established, and well-known companies in the world. It's worth nearly $240 billion, and pays out a 3.2% dividend to investors, so it's a good option for investors seeking safety in equities.
After losing ground in the previous four trading sessions, Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT ) shares bounced back 1.4% on Monday. Shareholders are watching closely as Wednesday's developers conference approaches, where the company is expected to reveal new changes to its Windows 8 software. The reception to recent Microsoft rollouts has been anything but smooth -- the company quickly reversed its policy on used games for the Xbox One console after a backlash -- so, hopefully, Wednesday's developments won't be too controversial.
As for the laggards, Hewlett-Packard (NYSE: HPQ ) closed near the bottom of the index after posting 3% losses. The stock is 60% more volatile than the market in general, so today's steep sell-off isn't too out of the ordinary. When considering the fact that HP has rallied 64% already this year, it helps to put today's slide in perspective. HP is a turnaround story at its core, so now and then a 3% slide is to be expected, especially in a market as unforgiving as today's was.
Lastly, Bank of America stock shed 3.1%. Unlike Johnson & Johnson, Bank of America pays a minimal dividend to reassure and reward investors, and the interconnectedness of global financial markets poses some immediate risk to the bank if China's economy continues to flounder. After all, big chunks of domestic industry rely in one way or another on the assumption that China will keep chugging along nicely, and Bank of America is a major creditor of American industry.
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