Yesterday proved to be the calm before the storm, as stocks fell sharply on renewed concerns about Europe and the viability of the euro. Just after 2 p.m. EST, the Dow Jones Industrial (INDEX: ^DJI) was down 115 points to 12,177, while the S&P 500 fell back into negative territory for the year, dropping 12 points to 1,253.

Leading the declines were Alcoa (NYSE: AA) and Bank of America (NYSE: BAC), both off more than 2%. Fears about the European economy have had an ongoing impact on the two companies, as the health of the European banking system raises concerns about B of A, while a European recession could put a crimp in Alcoa's recovery plans. Potentially boosting their declines is the fact that both of them have suffered huge drops in their share prices during 2011, so investors may be taking this last-minute opportunity to harvest tax losses by selling the stocks prior to the end of the year.

The sole gainer in the Dow early this afternoon was AT&T (NYSE: T), trading just barely above the unchanged line. Although the telecom giant gave up on its bid to buy T-Mobile, the stock remains the highest-yielding dividend payer in the Dow. Even more impressively, AT&T recently made it onto the prestigious Dividend Aristocrats list, which includes stocks that have raised their annual dividends every year for at least 25 years. By doing so, AT&T joins a number of other Dow stocks, including 3M (NYSE: MMM), Procter & Gamble (NYSE: PG), and ExxonMobil (NYSE: XOM).

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This article represents the opinion of the writer, who may disagree with the “official” recommendation position of a Motley Fool premium advisory service. We’re motley! Questioning an investing thesis -- even one of our own -- helps us all think critically about investing and make decisions that help us become smarter, happier, and richer.