The U.S. stock market sell-off has continued today, as has a trend of investors moving toward safety. With little economic news or earnings results to drive stocks, the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES:^DJI) was down 0.7% in late trading. The situation was even worse for the Nasdaq Composite and S&P 500, which were down 0.9% and 0.8%, respectively.

As seen on Friday, high-growth and tech stocks have taken the brunt of the sell-off as investors reconsider just how much earnings are going to rise this year. Last year's market was highlighted by rising P/E ratios with little earnings growth, which means eventually earnings have to catch up to valuations. For now, investors are thinking their expectations may have gotten ahead of what companies can actually produce.

The flight to safety continues
On the Dow, safety is the game today. Cisco's (NASDAQ:CSCO) strong run recently has continued with a 1.3% gain today, while IBM (NYSE:IBM), Intel (NASDAQ:INTC), and Procter & Gamble (NYSE:PG) have all gained at least 1% today.

Why are these stocks rising? They all present some sort of value to investors, which is hard to find in a market that looks very overvalued.


Market Cap

Net Cash

P/E Ratio


$118.7 billion

$29.9 billion



$202.7 billion

($28.6 billion)



$132.2 billion

$6.9 billion


Procter & Gamble

$218.8 billion

($27.1 billion)


Source: Yahoo! Finance.

Cisco and Intel both have low P/E ratios and large cash balances that provide downside protection for investors. They may not be the growth companies they once were, but they generate a ton of cash and that's what investors are looking for today.

Pg Tide Image

Products like Tide have kept Procter & Gamble from being a volatile stock long term.

IBM and Procter & Gamble both have net debt, but they have wide competitive moats that protect their businesses from competitors. IBM's services business is integrated into businesses around the world, giving it long-term earnings power. Procter & Gamble is considered a staple for consumers because it makes such essentials as toilet paper, laundry detergent, and diapers. It doesn't hurt that it boosted its dividend 7% today, the 58th consecutive year Procter & Gamble has delivered such a payout boos.  

Safety is the name of the game today and so far in 2014. Earnings just aren't going to grow enough to justify high valuations for stocks, and that's what has investors buying up these Dow giants.

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Travis Hoium manages an account that owns shares of Cisco Systems, Intel, and Procter & Gamble. The Motley Fool recommends Cisco Systems, Intel, and Procter & Gamble. The Motley Fool owns shares of Intel and International Business Machines. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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