Stock Market Today: Stocks Slide as They Look for Their Next Spark

Congress battled over whether to upgrade $600 stimulus checks to $2,000 payments Tuesday, but stocks didn't seem to take their cue from Washington.

Stimulus checks
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Stimulus was in the news today, but, for the first time in a long time, it wasn't the news.

With $600 direct payments to Americans green-lit, the House on Monday passed a bill that would upgrade those checks to $2,000. Then on Tuesday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell blocked Minority Leader Chuck Schumer's bid to unanimously advance the bill, though he conceded larger checks might eventually be tied to actions on other GOP priorities – namely, Section 230 legal protection for internet platforms and unsubstantiated voter fraud claims.

But the market's slight losses today didn't appear tied to McConnell's announcement, which was widely anticipated. Dan Wantrobski, technical strategist and associate director of research at Janney Montgomery Scott, points out that the markets simply appear ripe for profit-taking:

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"U.S. equities in particular are vulnerable to a correction as we enter 2021," he says, adding that small caps specifically are overbought and could lose some steam as investors return to large caps.

Indeed, the Dow Jones Industrial Average slipped a mere 0.2% to 30,335 on Tuesday, buoyed somewhat by Intel (INTC (opens in new tab), +4.9%), which soared after activist hedge fund Third Point LLC's CEO, Daniel Loeb, told the company it had taken "a significant stake" and suggested it "evaluate strategic alternatives."

The small-cap Russell 2000, meanwhile, suffered a much larger 1.9% spill to 1,959.

Other action in the stock market today:

  • The S&P 500 declined 0.2% to 3,727.
  • The Nasdaq Composite also fell, by 0.4%, to 12,850.
  • U.S. crude oil futures gained 0.6% to close at $47.88 per barrel.
  • Gold futures eked out a 0.1% gain to $1,882.90 per ounce.

stock chart for 122920

The Best Mutual Funds for Your 401(k)

We have four words for you as we near the end of 2020: Don't neglect your 401(k).

Yes, 401(k)s don't leave a lot of room for active management, so it's easy to set them and forget them – but after the ups and downs of 2020, and given what appears to be a starkly different 2021 market environment compared to this year, your 401(k) could probably use a fresh assessment, and perhaps a few changes.

We've spent the past couple months helping investors become more familiar with the most popular 401(k) mutual funds (opens in new tab) their plans are likely to offer, including providing Buy-Hold-Sell assessments of products from ubiquitous providers such as Vanguard (opens in new tab), Fidelity (opens in new tab), T. Rowe Price (opens in new tab) and American Funds (opens in new tab).

But if you're merely interested in the best of the best, regardless of the provider, we've got you covered too.

Of the 100 most popular 401(k) funds, only 23 individual actively managed funds (not including target-date series) earned a Buy rating this year. Read on as we outline 2021's best mutual funds for 401(k) investors, including what it is that puts them above the rest.

Kyle Woodley
Senior Investing Editor, Kiplinger.com

Kyle is senior investing editor for Kiplinger.com. As a writer and columnist, he also specializes in exchange-traded funds. He joined Kiplinger in September 2017 after spending six years at InvestorPlace.com, where he managed the editorial staff. His work has appeared in several outlets, including U.S. News & World Report and MSN Money, he has appeared as a guest on Fox Business Network and Money Radio, and he has been quoted in MarketWatch, Vice and Univision, among other outlets. He is a proud graduate of The Ohio State University, where he earned a BA in journalism.