Stock Market Today: Stocks Stumble on Ugly Earnings from Tech Bellwethers

Disappointing quarterly results from Microsoft and Alphabet interrupted an otherwise encouraging earnings season.

stock market chart in red
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Stocks closed mixed Wednesday as disappointing earnings from Google parent Alphabet (GOOGL, -9.1%) and Dow component Microsoft (MSFT, -7.7%) weighed on the major market benchmarks and the tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite in particular. 

The blue-chip Dow Jones Industrial Average finished up 0.01% at 31,840, while the broader S&P 500 closed off 0.7% at 3,830. The Nasdaq, under pressure not only from GOOGL and MSFT but also Facebook parent Meta Platforms (META, -5.6%) and (AMZN, -4.1%), slumped 2.0% to settle at 10,970. 

Markets had been grinding higher since mid-October on an encouraging third-quarter earnings season, but that came to a halt when MSFT and GOOGL reported results after Tuesday's closing bell. The cloud-computing giant and search king both missed Wall Street's estimates, hurt by a strong U.S. dollar, decelerating advertising spending and other recessionary pressures. Fear that these same headwinds will derail results from companies yet to report reignited concerns that we could be in the midst of the worst earnings season since the height of COVID-19 lockdowns.

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The Best Defensive ETFs to Protect Your Portfolio

Wednesday's mixed market action once again demonstrated the importance of defense and diversification. Tech got hammered Wednesday but the Dow held up comparatively well. Indeed, outside of energy – and some select oil and gas stocks in particular – every sector of the market is down for the year-to-date. However, within sectors, investors who are overweight dividend stocks – especially the top-rated dividend stocks in the Dow – are likely beating the broader market this year. Highly rated consumer staples stocks, which are also known for defense, have been another port in the bear market storm. 

Investors can take a do-it-yourself approach to overweighting defensive stocks in their portfolios, or they can go the cheap and easy route of embracing exchange-traded funds to do it for them. Whether we're talking about low-volatility ETFs, defensive dividend ETFs or even ETFs that benefit from a strong dollar, every one of these products has diversification built into it from the ground up. Check out these top defensive ETFs to protect your portfolio during these volatile times.

Dan Burrows
Senior Investing Writer,

Dan Burrows is Kiplinger's senior investing writer, having joined the august publication full time in 2016.

A long-time financial journalist, Dan is a veteran of SmartMoney, MarketWatch, CBS MoneyWatch, InvestorPlace and DailyFinance. He has written for The Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg, Consumer Reports, Senior Executive and Boston magazine, and his stories have appeared in the New York Daily News, the San Jose Mercury News and Investor's Business Daily, among other publications. As a senior writer at AOL's DailyFinance, Dan reported market news from the floor of the New York Stock Exchange and hosted a weekly video segment on equities.

Once upon a time – before his days as a financial reporter and assistant financial editor at legendary fashion trade paper Women's Wear Daily – Dan worked for Spy magazine, scribbled away at Time Inc. and contributed to Maxim magazine back when lad mags were a thing. He's also written for Esquire magazine's Dubious Achievements Awards.

In his current role at Kiplinger, Dan writes about equities, fixed income, currencies, commodities, funds, macroeconomics, demographics, real estate, cost of living indexes and more.

Dan holds a bachelor's degree from Oberlin College and a master's degree from Columbia University.

Disclosure: Dan does not trade stocks or other securities. Rather, he dollar-cost averages into cheap funds and index funds and holds them forever in tax-advantaged accounts.