The S&P 500’s losing streak was its longest in about 13 months, but the index ended off the day’s lows, having fallen as much as 1.4 percent earlier, at one point breaking below the 2,000 level for the first time since 17 December.
The Dow Jones industrial average fell 130.01 points, or 0.74 per cent, to 17,371.64, the S&P 500 lost 17.97 points, or 0.89 per cent, to 2,002.61 and the Nasdaq Composite dropped 59.84 points, or 1.29 per cent, to 4,592.74.
Among the day’s biggest drags, the S&P energy sector fell 1.3 per cent as oil prices slid further on mounting worries about a supply glut.
US crude settled at $47.93 a barrel, down 4.2 per cent on the day.
Shares of energy names tumbled, including Southwestern Energy, down five per cent at $24.71, as brokerages continued to cut price targets.
“It seems to be about oil prices. The big debate out there is what does it mean and is there this massive global economic slowdown,” said Eric Kuby, chief investment officer at North Star Investment Management Corp in Chicago.
Among gainers, AOL shares rose 3.4 per cent to $46.25 a day after a report that Verizon Communications had approached it about a potential acquisition or joint venture.