May Puts the Dow in a Chokehold

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Adios to the month of May! This past month has caused plenty of heartache as the Dow Jones Industrials (INDEX: ^DJI) experienced its worst month since 2010, finishing down 6.25%. Tomorrow brings a fresh start as we kick off June, but can we expect it to be any better? The Greek election taking place June 17 is sure to cause daily market swings as the pro-bailout New Democracy party and the radical left-wing Syriza are neck-and-neck. And now that Spain's economy is sputtering, negative news will be in great supply, while investor confidence could use a stiff drink.

May's storylines
However, some storylines that tainted May were not characteristic. JPMorgan Chase, which had by far the worst month of any Dow component in losing about a quarter of its value, traversed through an embarrassing $2 billion loss after Chief Executive Officer Jamie Dimon announced that the banking firm suffered from an "egregious" trading failure.  

It doesn't take a giant gaffe to send banking shares crashing to the ground, though, as Bank of America (NYS: BAC) , albeit nowhere near as bad as JPMorgan, lost 11% of its value. B of A's shares are a fixture at the top of the list for heaviest volume, and when a month where the VIX (measuring volatility in the S&P) appreciates by 45%, the bank is bound to see mammoth swings. Add into the mix that the Dow was up only five days this month, and couple it with the amount of eurozone debt issues, and Bank of America's fall seems within reason.


A messy divorce between Greece and the EU would send shock waves felt around the globe, with the potential of slowing economic growth all through the developed world. Even more, the one country that economists are rallying around with the hope that continued development will help carry the rest of the world, China, let it be known that it's starting to see a slowdown in GDP growth. These fears have sent materials and construction shares tumbling. Alcoa (NYS: AA) was caught in this squall, as it lost 11.8% of its value, but Caterpillar (NYS: CAT) fared worse, losing 12.3% of its value this past month.

That's not all
Of course, perhaps the biggest storyline of the month dealt with a non-Dow component, Facebook (NAS: FB) , and its atrocious IPO. The launch failed the smell test from the beginning, as Nasdaq botched the opening trade, followed by a 25% haircut in subsequent weeks. However, the stock finished the month on a hot streak, ending the final day up a cool 5%.

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At the time this article was published Joel South owns shares of no company listed above. The Motley Fool owns shares of Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase, and Facebook. The Motley Fool has adisclosure policy. We Fools don't all hold the same opinions, but we all believe thatconsidering a diverse range of insightsmakes us better investors. Try any of our Foolish newsletter servicesfree for 30 days.

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