Stock Market Today: Tech Roller Coaster Leaves Investors Thrilled

Stocks, especially tech, appeared poised for yet another bloodletting on Friday despite a stellar February jobs report. Then came the turn.

People smile and yell while on a roller coaster
(Image credit: Getty Images)

My oh my, what a head fake that was.

What was shaping up to be another potential setback for the technology sector and the rest of the stock market today turned into a roaring rebound into the weekend.

On Friday, the Labor Department reported that February nonfarm payrolls improved by 379,000 – robustly better than estimates for 200,000 jobs – and that unemployment had ticked lower, from 6.3% to 6.2%.

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"The much better-than-expected payroll report continues the narrative that the economy is in recovery, and a resurgence in the services side of the economy is helping to drive it," Gene Goldman, chief investment officer at Cetera Investment Management, said earlier in the day. "Also, in a reversal to recent market dynamics, good news is good news as equity markets are poised to rally today."

It didn't seem like it at first, though.

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The Nasdaq Composite declined by as much as 2.6% before midday, with the other major indices also spilling red ink. An afternoon recovery, led by the likes of Microsoft (MSFT (opens in new tab), +2.2%) and Alphabet (GOOGL (opens in new tab), +3.1%), flipped the tech-heavy index 1.6% in the green to 12,920.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average closed 1.9% higher to 31,496, led by Intel (INTC (opens in new tab), +4.1%) and UnitedHealth Group (UNH (opens in new tab), +3.9%).

Other action in the stock market today:

  • The S&P 500 charged ahead by 2.0% to 3,841.
  • The small-cap Russell 2000 improved by 2.1% to 2,192.
  • U.S. crude oil futures popped yet again, by 3.5% to $66.09 per barrel – their highest prices since 2019.
  • Gold futures slipped below the $1,700 mark, declining 0.1% to $1,698.50 per ounce.
  • Bitcoin prices, like the rest of the market, took a dive but finished up, improving 1.7% to $49,169. (Bitcoin trades 24 hours a day; prices reported here are as of 4 p.m. each trading day.)

stock chart for 030521

How to Achieve a Smoother Ride

It's unlikely to be the end of recent volatility, but it's a glorious way to end a difficult week.

Given that the market has been largely living and dying by the direction of interest rates, "markets will be very tuned into the next FOMC meeting on March 17, and Chair Powell, for any guidance over the evolution of FOMC communications," says Rick Rieder, BlackRock's chief investment officer of Global Fixed Income. "They have said that they will communicate well in advance before shifting policy toward tapering and then ultimately raising rates, and we expect further clarification to emerge in the coming months."

"We would expect more clarification on the path of policy from the Fed in the coming weeks and months. Until then, though, expect more volatility, since markets hate uncertainty, as amply displayed over the past week."

But not everyone has been sweating the past week: Investors who know they're getting an ample portion of their returns from regular dividend payments can watch stocks zig and zag with a little less stress.

We often share sources of substantial income, whether it's these 21 "retirement-ready" picks or these 11 monthly dividend payers, most of whom offer both high and frequent payouts. But you should also be aware of the wide variety of income strategies you can execute with exchange-traded funds (ETFs).

This list of 10 high-yield ETFs, paying out between 3.5% and 10.2%, tackles not just a wide variety of asset classes, but also several flavor-of-the-day sectors including financials and energy. Take a look!

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.