When you get asked over and over again what's wrong with Johnson & Johnson (JNJ - Get Report) , you do some digging. That's been the strongest stock in the pharma group and it has the best fundamentals, so you don't expect it to be rolling over.
Then, when you get asked about if something's awry at Action Alerts PLUS charity portfolio holding American Electric Power (AEP - Get Report) , because it's been very weak, and then you get the same kind of fear emanating from those who own Federal Realty (FRT - Get Report) , you realize that it isn't about JNJ, AEP or FRT.
It's about rates.
These stocks are all saying rates are going higher.
Yes, on any day we could easily find something "wrong" about each stock. Dividend Stock Advisor portfolio name Southern (SO - Get Report) filed a gigantic slug of stock to pay for a recent acquisition, so that could pull down the group. JNJ's compadres Eli Lilly (LLY - Get Report) and Bristol-Myers (BMY - Get Report) have had recent and notable drug failures that remind you of the frailty of the industry.
Some in Federal could be worried about a pullback in the entire real estate investment trust group led by Macy's (M - Get Report) , the recognition, as outgoing CEO Terry Lundgren said on CNBC that there's way too much retail capacity.
But the fact is that all of these stock groups have struggled while Citigroup (C - Get Report) advances, and Citi is the poster boy for stocks that people think need higher rates -- even as that's not the case at all, it's Bank of America (BAC - Get Report) .
Now, we have had periodic rate scares, endlessly based on someone from the Federal Reserve saying something tough, or the Fed minutes -- speak of the devil -- giving you some hawkish commentary.
The main thing to keep in mind is these pullbacks start exactly with the weakness in these kinds of stocks and continue for several days before the scare is either put to bed by Janet Yellen, or we get such weak data that it can't hold up to close scrutiny.
I doubt this time it will be different. But be aware that JNJ, AEP and FRT don't roll over idly. They roll over for big reasons: namely, a belief by some that an accelerated rate hike situation could be upon us.
Editor's Note: This article was originally published at 8:09 a.m. EDT on Real Money on Aug. 17.