U.S. stocks closed sharply lower Wednesday, pressured by low oil prices, as concerns about global economic slowdown weighed ahead of major earnings reports.
The S&P 500 closed down 2.5 percent, ending below the psychologically key 1,900 level for the first time since Sept. 29. The index fell below that level in intraday trade for the first time since Oct. 2, 2015. Consumer discretionary was the greatest declining sector.
All three U.S. averages closed more than 10 percent below their 52-week intraday highs, in correction territory.
“It started with crude just weakening a little bit. Everyone’s so afraid of this earnings season they’re pre-selling it,” said JJ Kinahan, chief strategist at TD Ameritrade.
He noted selling accelerated as the S&P 500 gave up gains for the day and turned lower in late-morning trade. The VIX also climbed, holding near 25 in the close.
Chatter about stress in the hedge fund community contributed to the selling pressure while traders also noted a certain flight to safety.
Treasury yields fell, with the 10-year yield hitting its lowest since late October and the 2-year yield touching its lowest since mid-December.