Why the Dow Plummeted More Than 200 Points Today

The worst day of 2013 results from European political uncertainty.

John Divine
John Divine
Feb 25, 2013 at 6:07PM
Markets

While the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES:^DJI) added about 120 points on Friday on news of German business confidence, a different European country took its turn influencing markets today, this time with less admirable results. The result of Italy's national election is by no means clear, and former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, if he wins, is seen as derailing his country's economic direction. The Dow ended down 216 points, or 1.55%, to close at 13,784 today. 

Bucking the stubborn bearishness of the day, shares of McDonald's (NYSE:MCD) advanced 0.9%, making the stock one of just three blue-chip stocks to advance. Did Mickey D's simply rise because today's precipitous market drop had investors pondering where people would have to eat given a prolonged crisis? Doubtful. More likely is the fact that shareholders as of Wednesday will receive the company's handsome $0.77 (a 3.2% annual yield) quarterly dividend in mid-March.

Alternatively, Bank of America (NYSE:BAC) tumbled 3.6%, and was the Dow's biggest loser to open the week. The uncertain Italian political landscape was the main culprit; if Berlusconi, who is anti-austerity, returns to power, Wall Street fears that Europe's fiscal can of worms may be reopened..

Still, as with most days in the market, there were some big winners interspersed with the voluminous number of laggards. Barnes & Noble (NYSE:BKS), which will report earnings on Thursday, advanced a whopping 11.5%. Earnings speculation, however, didn't fuel those gains. The bookstore's founder announced that he'd like to purchase the company's retail business, which doesn't include the higher-growth Nook business unit.

Just about the only certainty with stocks is that they're not for the faint of heart. That goes double for anyone considering an investment in 3D Systems (NYSE:DDD). After slumping more than 8% Thursday and then adding nearly 4% Friday, the stock fell 9% today after reporting lower-than-expected revenue growth. Sometimes even 45% year-over-year improvement can still be a disappointment.