Fear was the word of the week on Wall Street, and it's fear that drove the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES:^DJI) down 2.4% for the week. The biggest fears emerged on that China's economy is hitting a wall that could have an asset bubble popping in the region. Industrial production slowed in the first two months of the year, and property sales dropped in the same period.
China's growth has been fueled by easy debt and infrastructure spending for the past decade, and that can lead to bubbles in assets unless leadership can slow the economy to a sustainable growth rate. There's risk that won't happen and the bubble will pop, and the data out this week stoked that fear.
The other fear comes from Ukraine, where Crimea is voting this weekend whether to become part of Russia. The international community disputes the vote altogether, and if it passes, tensions could erupt next week.
The Dow's top stocks
Both McDonald's and P&G will benefit some from a flight to quality, so that's helping hold up shares. McDonald's CFO also said the company will do more to return cash to shareholders, potentially by selling stores to franchisees. The good news is that companies returning cash through dividends or buybacks is usually good for shareholders. The bad news is that McDonald's doesn't see enough return on investment in its own business to invest funds in growth.
Even if China does go through economic trouble, Procter & Gamble will continue to sell diapers and laundry detergent. The 3.1% dividend has also paid investors dividends for 123 straight years. In a market where stocks are highly valued and there's risk in an economic downturn, reliable dividends are a great place to turn, and that's what investors did last week.