Why the Dow Plunged 113 Points Today

Although we don't believe in timing the market or panicking over daily movements, we do like to keep an eye on market changes -- just in case they're material to our investing thesis.

A combination of bets that the Federal Reserve will start scaling back on its $85 billion monthly bond-buying program and violent clashes abroad sparked a sell-off on Wall Street today. After edging higher yesterday on a fourth straight month of increasing U.S. retail sales, blue chips couldn't preserve Tuesday's gains. Clashes in Egypt left nearly 100 people dead as political tensions remain high after ex-President Mohamed Morsi's forced departure. The Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES: ^DJI  ) lost 113 points Wednesday, or 0.7%, to end at 15,337. 

Bank of America (NYSE: BAC  ) resisted the broad declines, adding 0.6% as Morgan Stanley put its fellow financial institution on a list of the best investment opportunities in the market today. CEO Brian Moynihan has been trying to shore up the Charlotte-based bank's balance sheets since he took over from Ken Lewis in 2010. Patient shareholders have been rewarded as B of A's ridden itself of toxic mortgage assets and litigation risks -- shares are up nearly 90% in the last year. 

Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT  ) stock also avoided losses today, gaining 0.4%. The company is in the midst of fixing major problems with its Outlook.com email service. The issue? Users -- there are more than 400 million of them -- haven't been able to consistently access their email (I've experienced this problem firsthand). Wall Street was understandably relieved that the company took efforts to fix the glitch today, bidding up shares.

On the losing side, Johnson & Johnson (NYSE: JNJ  ) lost 2.5%. There wasn't any super-negative news that would cause the long-term investor to sell off, but there was some action in the options market that could have spooked institutional investors. A trader sold 17,000 October $95 calls today, about four times the average volume on those contracts. Those with a longer time horizon, however, should consider the nearly 3% dividend one of the most esteemed companies in the world pays out annually. Not a bad option for an income investor. 

Finally, Home Depot (NYSE: HD  ) shares dropped 2.5%, ending the day as the Dow's worst decliner. The home-improvement retailer fell, like most stocks on the market today, because of the sentiment that the Fed will pare down its bond buying in September. That announcement is expected to give pause to the real estate market, as interest rates rise and make borrowing more prohibitive. But again, for those bullish on real estate long term, today's drop in Home Depot shares could simply be a good price point for taking a Home Depot position. 

Many investors -- perhaps former Bank of America shareholders make up some of this group -- are terrified about investing in big banking stocks after the crash, but the sector has one notable standout. In a sea of mismanaged and dangerous peers, it rises above as "The Only Big Bank Built to Last." You can uncover the top pick that Warren Buffett loves in The Motley Fool's new report. It's free, so click here to access it now.


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