Investors dumped technology and other growth stock winners Wednesday in favor of defensive and value names, a trend that has accelerated as interest rates rise.
Tech stocks fell 4.8 percent in the worst day for the S&P sector since Aug. 18, 2011. The tech-heavy Nasdaq led the declines with a 4.1 percent loss, and the Dow ended down 831 points or 3.1 percent. The S&P 500 was off 3.3 percent, but the small-cap Russell 2000, however, was down slightly less at 2.8 percent.
"We've had a rolling correction. It started with the small caps over the last couple months, and now they're getting to the mega caps. The correction sort of rolled, and now we're finally getting to the big boys," said Peter Boockvar, chief investment officer at Bleakley Advisory Group.
But the sell-off has definitely been targeting big-cap growth names, like "FANG" companies Facebook, Netflix, Amazon and Google's parent Alphabet, all down sharply. In tech, semiconductors were down 3.4 percent, and have now fallen more than 7 percent since the start of October. Names tied to global growth, like Caterpillar, have also been slammed.
But telecommunications stocks and utilities, traditional defensive sectors, were higher. Some steady consumer products stocks were also in the green Wednesday and for the month. Some discretionary stocks, like Dollar Tree and Kohl's were higher, and mining stocks, including Newmont Mining also made gains.
The S&P 500 is off by 3.9 percent so far in October. As of Wednesday morning, the Russell 1000 Growth Index was down by double that in October. Meanwhile the Russell 1000 Value Index is off by less than 1 percent for the one month.
"That's clearly a trend that's at play in the market. There's a lot of fundamental reasons why people might be making that shift, and rates is one of them. You're also just coming into a new quarter, and earnings season is just around the corner," said Robert Sluymer, technical strategist at Fundstrat. He said earnings season could provide the catalyst to reverse the sell-off.