Why the Dow Plummeted Today

U.S. stock markets were seeing red today.

In sharp reaction to last Friday's disappointing jobs report from the Department of Labor, the Dow Jones Industrial Average (INDEX: ^DJI) recorded its fourth straight loss. The report highlighted that the U.S. economy added only 120,000 non-farm jobs in March, marking the first time the U.S. economy failed to add 200,000 or more jobs in a single month. The news sparked a sell-off across global markets.

On the day, the Dow ended down a cool 1%, with the Nasdaq and the S&P 500 both dropping 1.1%. The market saw volatility surge as well during the trading period. Options on the S&P 500 Volatility (INDEX: ^VIX) or the VIX, commonly referred to as the market's fear gauge, spiked by 12.6% today, as investors anxiously await the start of the first-quarter earnings season.

Around the market
Stocks closely tied to the broader economy took a beating today. Both Bank of America (NYS: BAC) and Caterpillar (NYS: CAT) fell more than twice the market's decline, ending the day 3.3% and 2.2% lower, respectively. Bank of America's now fallen an astounding 7.8% in the past five trading days, with CAT having fallen 3.4%. During that same five-day stretch, the Dow is down 1.8%.

Elsewhere around the market, automaker Ford (NYS: F) dropped a crisp 2% on the trading day. Investors sold off the stock amid news that the auto giant planned to recall 140,000 of its Focus compact models because of faulty windshield wipers. According to the automaker, the defect affects Focus models from Ford's 2012 lineup.

And while investors need to stay informed about the day-to-day moves of their holdings, getting wrapped up in the day-to-day noise can distract from the real goal of investing in the stock market -- winning over the long term. No one likes down days, but they can create opportunities for patient, long-term investors, enabling them to pick up shares of the companies they believe in on the cheap. To highlight three stocks that have big-time potential, the Fool recently released a report detailing three stocks to help you retire rich. Better yet, we made the report free to our readers, so access your free copy today.

At the time thisarticle was published Andrew Tonner held no financial position in any of the companies mentioned in this article at the time of its publication. The Motley Fool owns shares of Bank of America and Ford Motor.Motley Fool newsletter serviceshave recommended buying shares of and creating a synthetic long position in Ford Motor. 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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