Awful August: Worst month for Dow in 5 years

What a wild week for stocks!
What a wild week for stocks!

Good riddance, August! Stocks slid again Monday, leading the market to its worst month in several years.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average plummeted more than 1,100 points this month -- a fall of 6.6%. That's the biggest percentage drop for this collection of 30 stocks since a nearly 8% plunge in May 2010.

And the broader S&P 500 index fell 6.3% in August, its worst month since another 6.3% decline in May 2012.

Concerns about a slowdown in China, plunging oil prices and more anxiety about a possible rate hike by the Federal Reserve are the main culprits for this month's decline.

But is the worst over? September, after all, is historically the worst month of the year for stocks.

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The good news is that does not necessarily look like the beginning of a nasty bear market like the ones we had in 2000 and 2008.

Instead, it's probably your garden variety correction -- a drop of more than 10% from a recent peak.

The S&P 500 slid into correction territory last week. At its low point last Monday, the index was down 12.5% from the all-time high it set in May.

Prior to last week's pullback, the S&P 500 had not experienced a more than 10% decline since the fall of 2011 -- an unusually long time for stocks to rally without taking a breather.

The S&P 500 is out of correction mode for now ... but it is still about 8% below its record high.

Related: Why stocks aren't headed for a crash

The Dow is once again down about 10%. It was as much as 16% below its peak during the height of last Monday's market carnage.

So the market has stabilized a bit. That's something to hang your hat on.

William Riegel, chief investment officer with TIAA-CREF Asset Management, wrote in a report late Friday that he thinks the market "may have found its footing."

He argues that so many investors sold off stocks and bonds last week in order to hoard cash ... and that cash could eventually be used to bargain hunt for stocks once the current market fears ebb.

But that doesn't mean that the correction is over just yet.

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Riegel concedes that there will be likely more volatility ahead, especially with a key jobs report coming out Friday and the Fed set to meet on September 16 and 17 to discuss whether or not to raise interest rates. Worries about China haven't completely gone away either.

Then there's the gloomy forecast for corporate earnings.

The strong dollar has hurt profits for many multinational firms this year -- big Dow components like Coke (KO), GE (GE), American Express (AXP), Johnson & Johnson (JNJ) and IBM (IBM).

According to data from FactSet Research, earnings for companies in the S&P 500 fell 0.7% in the second quarter. That was the first year-over-year decline in quarterly profits since the third quarter of 2012.

And earnings are not likely to get better anytime soon. Analysts are predicting a 4.1% drop in earnings for the third quarter. That would be the worst quarter since a more than 15% drop during the third quarter of 2009.

The biggest losers in August tended to be in the media sector. Viacom (VIAB), 21st Century Fox (FOXA), Discovery Communications (DISCA), CNN owner Time Warner (TWX), CBS (CBS) and Disney (DIS) were among the worst performers in the S&P 500.

Increased concerns about consumers cutting the cord with their cable companies have led to fears about lower profits for the cable channels owned by these media firms.

But investors are also worried about the health of the consumer.

Retailers Macy's (M) and Kohl's (KSS) fell sharply in August following disappointing sales reports. Casino owner Wynn Resorts (WYNN) and luxury jeweler Tiffany (TIF), which both have significant exposure to China, were hit hard as well.

So buckle up. It's hard to imagine a major market rebound until Corporate America gets healthier.

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