Despite the recent run of record highs for the stock market, investors remain nervous that at some point, the Federal Reserve and other central banks will take away the punch bowl. After reports that the Fed has started to plot out how it will eventually withdraw from its program of quantitative easing, bond markets around the world fell dramatically -- even though the Fed has given few indications that it plans to start such a withdrawal anytime soon. So far, that nervousness hasn't produced all that much of a reaction, as the Dow Jones Industrials (DJINDICES:^DJI) fell just 27 points as of 10:45 a.m. EDT, while broader markets are more narrowly mixed. But if bond worries persist, they could eventually spread into the stock market more dramatically.
Within the Dow, weakness in materials was most prominent, with Alcoa (NYSE:AA) falling about 1%. Rising bond rates make it more costly for investors and businesses to hold inventories of aluminum and other commodities, further dampening demand in an already struggling industry. With the company the most shorted stock in the Dow, investors don't seem to have much confidence in Alcoa's ability to rebound anytime soon even if the global economy stabilizes.
Elsewhere, though, solar stocks continued their impressive advance from last week, with SolarCity (NASDAQ:SCTY.DL) rising 9% and SunPower (NASDAQ:SPWR) climbing 6%. SolarCity announces earnings after the bell today, and the residential installer of solar systems has found strong growth from its business model of providing long-term financing to help homeowners install solar panels. Meanwhile, with SunPower making a presentation to analysts later this week, investors are hoping to see whether the company can outpace rival First Solar (NASDAQ:FSLR), which has fully rebounded from brief losses after its earnings report last week was slightly less positive than it had led investors to believe. Solar energy has strong potential, and if a much-needed shakeout among Chinese competitors occurs, then these companies could see the benefits.