The day’s losses were broad, with nine of the 10 primary S&P 500 sectors lower on the day, though tech was the biggest drag by far. The group lost 3.3 per cent in its biggest one-day drop since November 2011, in the wake of results from industry bellwether Microsoft. Industrial shares also fell, led by Caterpillar.
The two names were the biggest decliners on the Dow, but fellow components Procter & Gable and DuPont also tumbled.
Microsoft fell 9.3 per cent to $42.66 a day after the main engine of its historic earnings power - selling Windows and Office to big businesses - showed signs of waning.
Heavy machinery marker Caterpillar gave an outlook below expectations, warning the recent plunge in oil prices would hurt its energy equipment business. Shares dropped 7.2 per cent to $79.85.
Many multinational companies disappointed this quarter, with the stronger dollar a common culprit. P&G was one of the companies pressured by a stronger dollar, sending shares down 3.4 per cent to $86.49.
After the market closed, Apple rose 5.4 per cent to $115 after it posted record sales of its iPhone line.
The Dow Jones fell 291.49 points, or 1.65 per cent, to 17,387.21, the S&P 500 lost 27.54 points, or 1.34 per cent, to 2,029.55 and the Nasdaq fell 90.27 points, or 1.89 per cent.