Just when investors thought it was safe to go back online to check out their 401k returns, the white-knuckled, fanatical market that went into hiding recently returned with a vengeance.
And just like the as-of-yet unexplained nature of the wild spikes, the market's stock losers this week had little if any thread to tie them together.
Topping the Dow Jones Industrial Average's ($INDU) losers list were American Express (AXP), Alcoa (AA), GE (GE) and HP (HPQ). Each was down double-digit percentages, in a week that saw 29 of the 30 stocks that make up the index in negative territory. The only gainer was Kraft (KFT), up about 1% for the week.
"Each of the biggest losers was down for different reasons. Just like we can't exactly explain what happened to the market this week, particularly Thursday, it's hard to pinpoint a trigger for these four stocks," says Richard Sparks, a senior equities analyst with Schaeffer's Investment Research.
The losses this week wiped out the stocks' gains so far this year, with the biggest loss coming Thursday, when the Dow plunged 1,000 points before recovering. The jury is still out on what caused the precipitous fall.
Biggest Losers Have Little in Common
American Express dropped 12% for the week, likely due to its financial exposure to the turmoil in Europe. The credit card and travel service company's stock finished Friday at $40.60 a share, still way up from its 52-week low of $22 per share.
General Electric stock got beaten down by 10% this week, also probably because of its European exposure, finishing at $16.88 per share.
Meanwhile, metals-producing giant Alcoa dropped about 10% for the week. The company's stock has been steadily increasing, but analysts are lukewarm on its prospects.
Adding more confusion to the week, the next biggest loser was computer maker Hewlett-Packard. The company did not report any news this week, but dropped $5 per share to finish at $46.73 per share. "Why did HP fall? Your guess is a good as mine," Sparks says.
Advice for Investors: Don't Overreact
One area that perhaps more legitimately took a hit was small cap stocks. The iShares Russell 2000 Index Fund (IWM), made up of small company stocks across all sectors, dropped about 9% for the week. The not-so-technical reason is that the smaller companies have been soaring over the past year, and investors cashed in on their gains when the market started showing some manic tendencies.
Those tendencies aren't going to go a long way toward soothing investors' lack of trust for the market, says Ann Terranova, owner of Union Financial Partners in San Francisco. "It's like the salesman who has a good week, he multiplies it by 52," Terranova says. "And when he has a bad week, he does the same thing."
She tells her investors to get past the weekly ups and downs and think long-term. "Investors have to remember that the market's fundamentals are still strong and move past the craziness of this week," she says.