Markets

Stock Market Today: Bulls Retreat in Face of Growing Political, Health Risks

Ruth Bader Ginsburg's death and worrying COVID-19 numbers in Europe added additional downward pressure on stocks Monday.

A host of new concerns dragged the major indices lower to start the week and put the S&P 500 closer to an official correction after weeks of declines.

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg passed away late Friday, throwing even more turmoil into 2020's political landscape as elected officials and Americans argue over the process of nominating an RBG replacement who might drastically shift the balance of the Supreme Court.

And across the pond, several European nations are considering new restrictions to fight off what appears to be a second wave of COVID-19 outbreaks, spurring concerns about a similar fate in the U.S.

The S&P 500 dropped 1.2% to 3,281, putting it less than 2% away from correction territory (a decline of 10% or more from a peak) and putting it in danger of absorbing its worst September performance since sliding 11% in 2002.

While most of the major indices finished well off their lows, the Nasdaq Composite rebounded sharply and finished with a much more modest 0.1% decline to 10,778. Apple (AAPL, +3.0%) and Microsoft (MSFT, +1.1%) both finished well in the black.

"Investors should take a binary approach to the market at this point," says Marc Chaikin, founder of Chaikin Analytics, a quantitative investment research firm, based in Philadelphia. "Remain bullish but raise some cash as technology stocks bounce in the near-term. Look for opportunities to redeploy that cash as this short-term pullback plays out over the next 2-4 weeks."

"Buying the dips still makes sense, but upside expectations need to be scaled back," he adds.

Other action in the stock market today:

  • The Dow Jones Industrial Average declined 1.8% to 27,147.
  • The small-cap Russell 2000 plunged 3.4% to 1,485.

Could Selling Accelerate Into the Election?

Turbulent trading is nothing new for the early fall months, but experts are cautioning that even more selling could be in store.

"September and October are not the best months historically for stocks, and have seen significant declines before like the 1929 and 1987 crashes," says Phil Towes, CEO of advisory firm Toews Corporation. "Watch COVID case counts across the country. That has been the most leading indicator, that might suggest that the economy will be forced into further layers of a market shutdown. That could bring about panic selling like we saw earlier this year."

Even a better-case scenario of bumpy but sideways trading could still shake out weaker hands, leading to outsize losses in low-quality stocks, so investors might consider a little pruning. Wall Street's analyst community has grown particularly wary of these nine stocks, for instance.

But watch out for danger from income-producing equities, too – not all dividend payers are open-and-shut bull cases. Here, we look at 11 dividend stocks that have been flagged by the DIVCON dividend-health rating system based on several financial metrics. They might not necessarily cut their payouts tomorrow, but they face uphill climbs for a variety of reasons – from high debt to weak cash flows to even federal investigations.

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