Stocks continued to selloff Monday amid light volume as confidence about the economy weakened and investors remained cautious ahead of several key reports coming up this week.
The Dow Jones Industrial Averagewas down almost 100 points, led by Bank of America, Home Depot , and Intel. Hewlett-Packard was the only stock trading higher among the blue-chip index.
TheS&P 500 and Nasdaqwere down more than 1 percent each. The CBOE volatility index, widely considered the best gauge of fear in the market, rose more than 7 percent, above 26. All key S&P sectors were lower, led by financials, consumer discretionary stocks and industrials.
The Dow, S&P 500 and Nasdaq ended last week with a rally after the Federal Reserve signaled it would take measures to support the recovery, if necessary. Still, the major indexes are on track to post a loss in August for the first time since 2005.
The S&P 500 is now trading at an earnings-per-share estimate of only 12.5 times the consensus estimate for 2010 earnings, and 10.9 times the consensus estimate for 2011, accrording to Jeff Saut, chief market strategist at Raymond James.
"Finally, if the forward earnings estimates are correct, the SPX is trading at a P/E ratio not seen in a long time," Saut wrote in a note to clients. "For these reasons I just do not see a whole lot of downside."
In an interview, Saut said a key problem is the retail investor has withdrawn from the market.
"Just like we had an optimism bubble 10 years ago, we have a pessimism bubble today," Saut said.
Bank stocks were weak across-the-board, extending a trend evident all month, reflecting deep investor concerns with the sluggish US economy.
Bank giants including Citigroup , WellsFargo and Bank of America fell almost 2 percent each.
Hewlett Packard's shares were up more than 2 percent after the company's board announced plans to buy back $3 billion in stockin the fourth quarter. Also, S&P Equity raised its price target on HP to $49 from $48. HP is the latest among 41 companies to announce stock buybacks, a move that usually inspires wider investor confidence in the stock market.
The computer maker is also in the middle of bidding war with Dell for 3Par , a utility storage provider. On Friday, HP raised its bid to $2 billion or $30 a share. Dell's latest bid was $27 a share.
Genzyme shares rose more than 3 percent after the pharmaceutical company's board unanimously rejected an $18.5 billion offer that translated into $69 per sharefrom Sanofi-Aventis. S&P Equity downgraded its rating on Genzyme to "hold" from "buy."
Elsewhere, Intel shares were lower after news that the tech giant will buy the wireless unit of German chipmakerInfineon for $1.4 billion in cash. The unit will be operated as a stand-alone business. In addition, at least six brokerages cut their price targets on Intel.
3M shares were down after the conglomerate said it would buy biometric identification systems company Cogent in a deal valued at more than $900 million. Cogent shares soared more than 20 percent following the news.
BHP Billiton said it would consider divesting several units of Potash if it is successful at acquiring the company.
And Cisco shares were lower following rumors that the Internet equipment maker has made an offer to acquire Skypebefore the firm completes their IPO process, according to TechCrunch.