US stocks tumbled on Wednesday, sending benchmark indexes to their lowest levels since late September, as investors fretted about the global economy and corporate earnings prospects.
A renewed slide in oil prices added to nervous mood on Wall Street, where traders were already on edge due to concerns about slowing Chinese demand.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average finished down 364.81 points, or 2.2 percent, at 16,151.41, while the S&P 500 Index lost 48.4 points, or 2.5 percent, to 1,890.28.
The Nasdaq Composite slumped 159.85 points, or 3.4 percent, to 4,526.07.
Selling was broad, with decliners outpacing advancing issues on the NYSE more than 7 to 1 and on the Nasdaq by more than 6 to 1, Reuters reported.
Stocks started the day higher but sentiment turned negative when a brief rally in beaten-down oil prices stalled. Growing stockpiles of oil in the US stoked market fears about demand.
“We’ve been in capital preservation mode since the year began and as the market has shown an inability to rally with any conviction, that’s only increased the level of nervousness,” Michael James of Wedbush Securities told Reuters.
The declines ended a two-day rebound for the S&P 500 and resumed the steep selloff that began at the start of the year amid concerns about a slowdown in China and global growth.
Volatility in oil prices overshadowed better-than-feared trade data out of China that initially lifted sentiment in equities and commodities.
Benchmark Brent crude slipped below US$30 a barrel, a day after US oil prices breached that level.
Ten-year US Treasury bond yields fell to their lowest levels since late October as investors piled into safe-haven government debt.
Analysts said nervousness about fourth-quarter earnings added to the bearish tone.
“People are concerned about the health of the economy,” Ken Polcari, director of the NYSE floor division at O’Neil Securities, told Reuters.
“There’s no catalyst to really take it higher. If you start getting bank and other earnings that are really bad, nothing is going to hold.”
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