Wall Street tumbled on Wednesday, with the S&P 500 hitting its lowest since February 2014 and deepening this year's selloff as oil prices plummeted unabated.
The stocks rout spread across the board, hitting all 10 major S&P sectors, with nine down more than 1 percent. The small-cap Russell's 2000 index fell 3.6 percent before reducing its losses.
The New York Stock Exchange recorded 1,402 stocks at new 52-week lows, while 894 sank to new lows on the Nasdaq, the most on a single day since Aug. 24 for both exchanges.
The beaten-down S&P energy sector's fell 4.5 percent, leading the decliners. Exxon dropped 5.9 percent and Chevron slumped 5.7 percent.
U.S. crude prices sank 6.6 percent and Brent crude slid 4.7 percent as a supply glut bumped up against bearish financial reports that deepened worries over demand.
Collapsing oil prices and fears of a slowdown in China, the world's second largest economy and a key market for U.S. companies, has led the S&P 500 to drop 10 percent this year.
"The fear is 'Is tomorrow going to bring more selling?' People are not even thinking about today, they're thinking about tomorrow," said Kim Forrest, senior equity research analyst at Fort Pitt Capital Group in Pittsburgh.
At 2:35 p.m. EST (1935 GMT), the Dow Jones industrial average was 2.5 percent lower at 15,615.63 points.
The S&P 500 lost 2.24 percent to 1,839.17, recovering some ground after briefly hitting a low of 1,812.29, its lowest since February 2014.
The Nasdaq Composite dropped 1.41 percent to 4,413.76. The index has closed higher in only two of the 12 trading sessions this year.
The CBOE volatility index, Wall Street's fear gauge, jumped 11 percent to 28.97.
Strength last year in Netflix, Facebook and a handful of other technology stocks masked troubled sentiment in other components of the S&P 500, said R Squared portfolio manager Riad Younes.
“You had a crowded trade on a few names that kept the average much higher than it should be,” Younes said. “It feels like a bear market for the average stock.”
IBM weighed the most on the Dow, falling 6 percent after a disappointing earnings report.
Netflix was also swept up by the downbeat sentiment, dropping 1.5 percent despite reporting better-than-expected growth in its subscriber base.
Declining issues outnumbered advancing ones on the NYSE by 2,671 to 477. On the Nasdaq, 1,891 issues fell and 960 advanced.
(Additional reporting by Abhiram Nandakumar; Editing by Jeffrey Benkoe)
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Updated Date: Jan 21, 2016 03:30 AM