Why the Dow Tanked Today


It's like yesterday never even happened. The Dow Jones Industrial Average (INDEX: ^DJI) fell sharply today, erasing yesterday's gain and then some. For the day, the Dow shed 160 points, roughly a 1.3% drop. Equally dismal, the S&P 500 and Nasdaq each declined to the tune of 1.4% and 1.2%, respectively.

In what makes for a depressing change of pace, it was Spain today, not Greece, that worried investors. As news of declining deposits cast doubt on the health of the Spanish banking system, investors grew especially wary of Spanish and Italian debt, sending yields on both countries debt sharply higher. Especially since a Spanish bailout would require resources far beyond those needed to foot Greece's tab, growing deterioration in the larger, heavily indebted European economies should leave investors sweating bullets. As a result, the market's "fear gauge," or the VIX (INDEX: ^VIX) , climbed 14.8% during the trading session today.

Blood on the streets
As you could probably guess, individual stocks took a beating as well today. On the Dow, only Intel closed in positive territory on the day, although it rose only a paltry 0.2%. As should also be expected, cyclical stocks fell the most today. Companies exposed to commodity prices traded firmly downward. Alcoa (NYS: AA) posted the greatest decline among Dow components, falling 3.5%, and United States Steel (NYS: X) plummeted 4.7% as well.

Oil plummeted, too, posting a 3.7% loss on the day. This understandably weighed on major oil stocks. Both Chevron and ExxonMobil each fell 2.6% today, securing them the No. 3 and No. 4 largest drops on the Dow today. Clearly, cyclicals weren't the place to be today.

In other news, shares of social-networking giant Facebook (NAS: FB) gave up their early gains to close the day 2.3% lower. This comes as investors grow increasingly skeptical of the company's prospects going forward. The stock, which many investors (myself included) expected to post strong initial gains, now sits around 25% lower than its original asking price.

The best way to play a down market
If today's news out of Europe was any indication, we could have a longer-than-expected road to recovery ahead of us. And while no investor likes to see his holdings fall in value, a declining market does create opportunity for the contrarian investor, especially for those with a long-term time horizon. A down market can be a great time to load up on companies you love. If you're a retirement saver looking for potential stocks to buy on a dip, the Fool identified three stocks it thinks have the makings of long-term winners. We detail them in our free research report. Things could get worse before they get better. However, in the often-brutal game of investing, buying great stocks on the cheap and holding them for years is one of the best ways to end up a winner.

At the time thisarticle was published Andrew Tonnerheld no financial position in any of the companies mentioned in this article at the time of publication. You can follow Andrew and all his writing onTwitterat@AndrewTonner.Motley Fool newsletter serviceshave recommended buying shares of Intel and Chevron. 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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