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Groundhog Day Meltdown Casts Shadow Over Stock Market

Dow plunges more than 600 points on Friday after January jobs report causes jitters, and Exxon earnings and Apple earnings disappoint.

Call it a coincidence, but Punxsutawney Phil's prediction of six more weeks of winter seemingly had a chilling effect on the stock market.

What Happened in the Stock Market Today?

While Main Street celebrated a January employment report that showed better-than-expected job growth and the fastest pace of wage growth in eight years, Wall Street took the news much differently. Concerns over the potential impact of a tightening labor market on Corporate America, not to mention a couple of faceplants by large Dow components, sent the industrial average down 2.5% to 25,520 on Friday, Feb. 2. All told, the Dow has lost 4.1% over the past five sessions -- including the Groundhog Day decline of 666 points -- marking its worst single-week performance since January 2016.

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The wage-growth worry on Wall Street is twofold: Fatter paychecks for employees could eventually cut into company profits, and rising wages could be signaling a coming pickup in inflation. The latter, in theory, could trigger quicker rate hikes by the Federal Reserve -- a fear that's showing up in the bond market, with the 10-year Treasury yield hitting multiyear highs above 2.8%. Also hampering the Dow were Exxon Mobil (XOM, -5.3%), which missed earnings expectations, and Apple (AAPL, -4.4%), which beat profit estimates but earned analyst downgrades because quarterly iPhone sales came up short.

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This week was ugly -- adorable woodchuck aside -- but it's far from time to hit the panic button. Instead, it may just be a reminder to be more critical about strategy and timing. For instance, a number of high-yield dividend stocks have quietly been dipping for several months, and already are reaching bargain prices. But even the market's most stable of blue chips have lost a little skin this week, and could shed more in a steeper broad-market downturn. Opportunistic investors should keep on the watch for the chance to buy these quality names on the cheap.

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