Markets

Dow drops 240 points Friday as stocks fall for a third straight week

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Nasdaq falls nearly 2 percent as investors continue to dump tech stocks

Stocks fell on Friday to end a volatile week as investors continued to dump shares of high-flying tech companies. 

The Dow Jones Industrial Average slid 244.56 points, or 0.9%, to 27,657.42. The S&P 500 dropped 1.1% to 3,319.47. The Nasdaq Composite also fell 1.1% and closed at 10,793.28. The S&P 500 hit its lowest level of the month on Friday after reaching an all-time high on Sept. 2.

The major averages fell for a third straight week, notching their longest weekly losing streaks since last year. The Dow posted a slight week-to-date loss. The S&P 500 lost 0.7% and the Nasdaq dropped 0.6% over that time period. 

Shares of Apple dropped more than 3% on Friday. Microsoft and Alphabet pulled back by 1.2% and 2.4%, respectively. Netflix dipped 0.1%. Facebook fell 0.9%.

"We're seeing short-term under performance from these stock but also outperformance over the long term," said Mark Travis, CEO of Intrepid Capital. However, he noted that tech's struggles are likely to be short-lived. Many of these companies "generate a lot of cash and have impenetrable balance sheets. They are also ubiquitous in terms of people's use of them."

Big Tech was also down broadly week to date. Facebook and Amazon have each dropped more than 5% this week. Alphabet, Netflix, Apple and Microsoft are also down sharply over that time period. For the month, all six stocks are down at least 10%. Apple, specifically, has plunged 17.2% in September. From their peak, Apple shares have fallen 22.6%; the company has also given up $500 billion in market value. 

Friday's moves came as a series of individual stock, ETF and index options expired, potentially adding to some of the session's volatility. Tech stocks like Apple, Amazon and Microsoft are among the names where investors had been aggressively buying call options. There was heavy activity Friday in Apple call options, for instance, which expired out of the money. Apple fell 3%. Options in Tesla are also actively traded, but that stock was higher.

"If you look at the options activity, we knew it was elevated in the technology names for the month and the quarter," said Art Hogan, chief market strategist at National Securities. "It's definitely going to have a large influence on the underlying activity...It's probably had an impact on stocks today and earlier in the week."

The quarterly expiration comes after a summer of record buying in options by individuals and institutions, and many of them were bullish bets on technology and momentum stocks. Index options and futures expired at the opening bell Friday.

Tensions between China and the U.S. also dampened market sentiment after the U.S. government said it will block all TikTok and WeChat downloads in the country on Sunday. Oracle, which is trying to take a minority stake in TikTok-parent ByteDance, fell 0.7%.

Wall Street was coming off a sharp drop in the previous session as investors were on edge about the outlook on further coronavirus stimulus as well as the timing of a viable vaccine. 

Republicans and Democrats are still struggling to agree on how much aid to continue to provide in a follow-up bill to the previous $2 trillion package. President Donald Trump said Wednesday he liked "the larger numbers," urging GOP lawmakers to go for a bigger coronavirus stimulus, but his comments left Republicans skeptical.

"The signs point to a decelerating U.S. economic recovery and increasing thematic risks," analysts at MarketDesk Research said in a note. "It feels as if the bullish market narrative is changing in real time. Given all of the headline risks, we would error on the side of caution in the coming months."

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