Stock markets dropped in afternoon trading after recovering from this morning's sharp losses. As of 3:15 p.m. EDT the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES:^DJI) has lost 0.38% of its value, while the S&P 500 (SNPINDEX:^GSPC) is down 0.56%.
One of the drivers of the afternoon loss was the violence that erupted in Istanbul's Taksim Square as protests quickly took a turn for the worst. Riot police filled the square with tear gas and shot water cannons, only to see protesters respond with shots of fireworks. Turkey is the world's 17th-largest economy, according to IMF estimates, and it is much larger than countries like Libya, Egypt, and Syria, which have seen violent upheavals in the last few years. If a civil war breaks out, it could have a bigger impact on the global economy than the other three combined.
On a company level, American Express (NYSE:AXP) is the biggest loser on the Dow, falling 1.9%. A Department of Labor report showed that job openings in the U.S. fell from 3.88 million in March to 3.76 million in April. Not only does American Express make money when consumers spend with its cards, but the company also takes on credit risk, so the job market impacts the company's bottom line. Unease about the economy has investors selling this stock in bulk today.
Health care stocks are really the only safe haven today -- something that has rarely been the case in recent years. Pfizer has gained 0.6% on the day, and insurer UnitedHealth Group is up 1.2%, making them two of just five Dow stocks in the black right now. Pfizer may be up today, but the company still faces a lot of risks in the form of patent expirations and a lack of upcoming blockbuster drugs. UnitedHealth will have to deal with the implementation of Obamacare next year, which could crimp profits and lead to more competition in many areas.
Jumping into health care stocks when the market gets volatile is a classic move for traders, but long-term investors will recognize the risks facing the industry as a whole.
Fool contributor Travis Hoium has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends American Express and UnitedHealth Group. 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.