Johnson & Johnson (JNJ), The Coca-Cola Company (KO): Rising Interest Rates Put Brakes on Markets

Today the major markets have given back all of yesterday’s big gains — and then some. As of 12:55 a.m. EDT, the Dow Jones Industrial Average is down 160 points, or 1.04%. The S&P 500 has lost 1.05% of its value, while the NASDAQ is lower by 0.9%. The only real economic data released today came from the housing market with the mortgage purchase application survey. The data indicated that there was an 8.8% decrease in application activity. The bulk of the decline came from a 12% drop in refinancing, and because that accounted for 71% of all applications, it wiped out the 3% rise in purchase applications we saw over the previous week.

Dow Jones Industrial Average 2 Minute (INDEXDJX:.DJI)This data is not encouraging, but the fact that more Americans are buying homes each week is. Today’s stock market declines are likely the result of rising interest rates and the knowledge that bond rates will continue to increase in the coming months.

The Dow’s biggest losers are all mainstream consumer staples whose stock prices rose as bond interest rates fell in response to the Federal Reserve’s policies and investors chased yield in safe, stable stocks. But now that the Fed is hinting at slowing its bond-buying programs and actual rates are beginning to rise, those investors who sought safe returns are now selling stocks in preparation for days of higher bond rates. Shares of Johnson & Johnson (NYSE:JNJ), The Coca-Cola Company (NYSE:KO), The Procter & Gamble Company (NYSE:PG), and even the high-dividend-paying Pfizer Inc. (NYSE:PFE) are all down 2% or more today on little negative news.

All four of these stocks currently have dividend yields around 3%, and with interest rates on 30-year Treasuries now above 3%, and even 10-year notes paying 2.15%, investors looking for reliable returns are likely moving out of stocks and into the bond market.

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Fool contributor Matt Thalman owns shares of Johnson & Johnson. The Motley Fool recommends Coca-Cola, Johnson & Johnson, and Procter & Gamble. The Motley Fool owns shares of Johnson & Johnson. Check back Monday through Friday as Matt explains what caused the Dow’s winners and losers of the day, and every Saturday for a weekly recap. Follow Matt on Twitter: @mthalman5513.

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