Oh, what a difference a few hours can make. As I noted in my midday market update, U.S. stock markets started strong out of the gate today -- but as concerns about the viability of the Spanish bailout and general uncertainty surrounding the health of the European economy mounted later in the day, markets gave up their initial gains and settled firmly in negative territory before the closing bell. Examining the final tape, the Dow Jones Industrial Average (INDEX: ^DJI) shed 77 points, or 0.6%. Likewise, both the Nasdaq and S&P 500 both started positive, only to end down 0.9% and 0.7%, respectively.

As an additional sign of increased skepticism on investors' parts, the market's so-called "fear gauge," of the VIX (INDEX: ^VIX), accelerated its upward spike, ending the day just under 10% higher. For context, the VIX had gained only 5% at noon. Clearly, things got more tense as the day ended.

Around the markets
Despite macroeconomic concerns dominating the discourse today, several noteworthy stories also played out in individual stocks. Computer manufacturer Dell (Nasdaq: DELL) declared its first-ever dividend, which sent its shares 2.6% higher on the day. The move attempts to counter Dell's recent share slide as the company has struggled to tap into growth markets in both the consumer and corporate that offer meaningful growth.

As I noted earlier today, JPMorgan Chase (NYSE: JPM) CEO Jamie Dimon visited the nation's capital to testify in front of the Senate Banking Committee regarding his company's recent $2 billion in trading losses. While investors and market observers widely expected a contentious hearing, it passed with relatively little tumult. JPMorgan's shares ended the day 1.6% higher.

Looking past large caps, shares of technology developer Rambus (Nasdaq: RMBS) popped more than 9% today as investment research firm Sidoti & Company began coverage on the company, rating it as a buy. Sidoti attached a price tag of $10 to the stock, implying substantial upside potential -- around a double.

The road forward

Major macro storylines have dominated daily movements. And it's just such times when investors should focus on identifying stocks they want to buy on the pullback, should it arrive -- established stocks like blue-chip dividend stocks. To further that effort, the Fool recently issued a research report highlighting its three most promising Dow components, which you can access today.

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.