A Double Whammy On Quadruple Witching Day

This post was written by CNBC producer Robert Hum

Stocks fell to the lows of the day this afternoon as a couple of issues weighed on the markets.

1) The U.S. dollar weakened after Moody’s warned California’s credit ratings could face a “multi-notch” downgrade if the state legislature can’t agree on a budget soon. These comments come of the heels of a similar warning made by S&P earlier in the week as the state battles its current budget shortfall.

Moody’s cautions that “the state's cash situation will deteriorate to the point where the controller will have to delay most non-priority payments in July” if the state’s $24.3 billion budget crisis isn’t resolved soon. Such a downgrade would make California ineligible for more favorable interest rates, pushing the cash-strapped state’s borrowing costs up.

2) Separately, commodity pricesfell to their lows of the day, with notable profit-taking in gasoline, crude oil, and gold, and copper. This took the wind out of the stock market’s earlier leadership groups – materials and energy, which moved into negative territory on the day.

One leadership group that’s holding up again today is healthcare. Several HMO stocks are posting impressive gains for the fourth straight day on continued hopes that significant (and costly) health care reform proposals maybe dying.

Take a look at the performance of various healthcare stocks since Tuesday:

    • Cigna up 22%
    • Health Net up 19%
    • Coventry Health Care up 18%
    • Aetna up 15%
    • Humana up 13%
    • UnitedHealth up 10%



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