Stocks on Wall Street suffer their first three-day losing streak of the year.
The equity market got off to a hot start, but quickly lost its footing. The Dow Industrials fell 126 points, sliding back below the 15-thousand mark, while the Nasdaq dropped 36, and the S&P 500 slipped 13 points.
But it's not just the declines that have investors concerned: The market is choppier than it's been in months. For the second day in a row, blue chips swung in a triple-digit range, indicating uncertainty. Traders are trying to figure out when the Federal Reserve will start to taper off its quantitative easing program, and how to position themselves ahead of that move.
Every stock sector posted losses today, with utilities falling the most. Among Dow stocks, American Express was the biggest loser, down 2.5 percent. But Hewlett-Packard jumped nearly 3 percent, after CEO Meg Whitman told CNBC that the company is ahead of schedule on its five-year turnaround plan, and revenue growth is still possible in the next fiscal year.
It was a big debut for Gigamon. The data-management company surged 50 percent, trading on the New York Stock Exchange under the ticker symbol "GIMO."
And memory-chip designer Rambus also bucked the downward trend, rising 6.5 percent. It's getting $240 million as part of a patent settlement with Korean rival SK Hynix.
Pfizer finished slightly higher after settling another long-running patent dispute. Teva and Sun Pharmaceuticals agreed to pay more than $2 billion in damages for selling a generic version of Pfizer's acid-reflux drug Protonix in the United States.
Elsewhere in the pharma sector, shares of Biogen Idec tumbled nearly 7.5 percent. A Citi analyst lowered his rating on the stock, saying Biogen's new multiple-sclerosis treatment could face generic competition in Europe.
And finally, a big international acquisition: India's Apollo Tyres is buying Cooper Tire & Rubber for about $2.5 billion. Shares of Cooper exploded more than 41 percent higher on the news.
5 Companies Set to Cash In on America's Aging
Closing Bell: Uncertainty Leads Stocks to First 3-Day Losing Streak of 2013
Medtronic is a maker of medical devices, specializing in cardiovascular products like pacemakers, valve replacements, and various items to help repair problems in the circulatory system. But Medtronic also serves a number of other areas, including ways to treat spinal problems, diabetes and chronic pain.
One downside for investors is the fact that beginning this year, Medtronic has to pay a surtax on medical-device revenue, which was imposed to help pay for the health care reform law. Even with the tax sapping its profits, though, Medtronic will benefit from the needs of more patients needing treatment for heart-related illnesses and other ailments using its devices.
This iconic drugstore chain has been around for decades, paying ever-higher dividends to shareholders. As prescription drug use grows, Walgreen stands to have more traffic in its stores, and that in turn should drive more sales of the unrelated retail goods that the company stocks on its store shelves.
In addition to benefiting from older Americans, Walgreen has made a big push recently for international growth. Aging populations in economies around the world represent a great opportunity for Walgreen to expand beyond its domestic stronghold.
MetLife is one of the biggest providers of life insurance in the country. Insurers have gone through hard times in recent years, as poor investment returns and high payouts on certain types of insurance left them reeling from the financial crisis five years ago.
But for investors, MetLife's moves have made it a stronger stock. It's decision to stop offering long-term-care insurance has been tough on older Americans seeking protection from high health care costs, but its core insurance business benefits from the longer lifespans of an aging population. With some favorable products tailored to retirees, MetLife stands to make big strides forward in the years to come.
The scope of Johnson & Johnson's business is wider than many people realize. In addition to its well-known consumer brands like Band-Aid, J&J also has sizable pharmaceutical and medical-device arms. Though many of its rivals have broken themselves up into smaller businesses to let the individual parts focus on their respective specialties, Johnson & Johnson still sees value in its conglomerate status.
Unfortunately, J&J has had problems with its hip replacement products, which led to recalls of certain devices. But the company has overcome similar short-term problems in the past. Given the size of J&J's orthopedics business, which by itself dwarfs many of the companies that specialize in orthopedic devices, Johnson & Johnson still stands to gain from rising demand once it addresses any safety concerns.
Omega Healthcare is a real estate investment trust that specializes in owning and operating health-care-related properties, with an emphasis on skilled nursing, assisted living, independent living, and rehabilitation facilities. A growing pool of retirees seeking the community environment that these facilities offer has led to higher demand in recent years, and those trends are only likely to continue as these communities benefit from the network effect of having older peers recommend them to (relatively) younger prospects.
For investors, the real estate investment trust framework ensures a steady stream of income for your portfolio. On that score, Omega's dividend yield of 6 percent stands out as particularly attractive, topping several other similar health care REITs.