Stock Market Today: Rate Fears Send Tech Tumbling

Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen put a little fear of future Fed rate hikes into investors, sparking an exodus Tuesday in the FAANGs and other tech names.

A keyboard is thrown through a monitor
(Image credit: Getty Images)

The stock market flinched on Tuesday, spooked by comments from Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, but the damage was uneven. The "rotation trade" out of growth continued to unwind, hurting shares of large technology stocks, while a number of healthcare names and telecoms held up well.

In taped remarks to The Atlantic aired today, Yellen said that "it may be that interest rates will have to rise somewhat to make sure that our economy doesn't overheat" – a statement that runs counter to the Federal Reserve's message that rate hikes are a long way away.

But you might also blame valuations that made the market ripe for profit-taking at the first sign of trouble.

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"According to data from Bloomberg Analytics, the S&P 500 is trading at a higher multiple than at any other time in history, including the 1982-2000 secular bull cycle," says Dan Wantrobski, technical strategist and associate director of research at Janney Montgomery Scott. "Historical data shows the trailing-12 month P/E ratio currently trading just under 31, after hitting a recent high of 32.38 in March this year."

The deepest cuts to lofty valuations were found in the Nasdaq Composite (-1.9% to 13,633) and its many tech and tech-esque stocks. The "FAANGs" (opens in new tab)Facebook (FB (opens in new tab), -1.3%), Apple (AAPL (opens in new tab), -3.5%), Amazon.com (AMZN (opens in new tab), -2.2%), Netflix (NFLX (opens in new tab), -1.2%) and Google parent Alphabet (GOOGL (opens in new tab), -1.6%) – were all solidly lower, which also weighed on the S&P 500, down 0.7% to 4,164.

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The Dow Jones Industrial Average, however, managed to escape with a marginal gain to 34,133, bolstered by Dow (DOW (opens in new tab), +2.6%) and Caterpillar (CAT (opens in new tab), +2.3%).

Other action in the stock market today:

  • CVS Health (CVS (opens in new tab), +4.3%) had a solid session after the pharmacy chain reported stronger-than-expected earnings and revenue in its first quarter, with COVID-19 vaccinations and testing boosting its top line. CVS also raised its full-year profit guidance.
  • Alcoa (AA (opens in new tab)) spinoff Arconic (ARNC (opens in new tab), +19.2%) was also a post-earnings winner. The company recorded first-quarter profit and revenue above what analysts were projecting, thanks to higher aluminum prices. Arconic also upped its 2021 revenue forecast and authorized a $300 million share repurchase program.
  • The small-cap Russell 2000 declined by 1.3% to 2,248.
  • U.S. crude oil futures gained 1.9% to end at $65.69 per barrel.
  • Gold futures slipped 0.9% to settle at $1,776.00 an ounce.
  • The CBOE Volatility Index (VIX) popped 6.4% to 19.48.
  • Bitcoin prices sank 5.0% to $54,643.66. (Bitcoin trades 24 hours a day; prices reported here are as of 4 p.m. each trading day.)

stock chart for 050421

(Image credit: YCharts)

Stay Cool as Ice With Cash

How can investors go about protecting themselves from yet another potential bout of volatility?

Fund providers always seem to have a trick or two up their sleeves – and one such trick you might want to check out are "buffeted" ETFs (opens in new tab), which are designed to absorb stock market losses – though at the cost of capping some gains.

If you prefer to simply buy and hold your way through most market noise, you know that the key to tamping down turbulence is a steady stream of income. How much income is another story altogether, and one that comes down to your own personal risk tolerance and needs … but regardless of what that number is, we can show you how to get it.

We've recently outlined 35 ways to earn yields of up 10% (opens in new tab), and it spans the spectrum – from short-term cash investments to bonds to stocks to high-yield classes. Check out the full list, which can help determine what's best for you.

Kyle Woodley was long AMZN as of this writing.

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.