U.S. stocks sank Wednesday to kick off the fourth quarter amid an array of mixed economic data and concerns over the eurozone economy.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average shed 238.19 points, or 1.40 percent, to 16,804.71. The S&P 500 slumped 26.13 points, or 1.32 percent, to 1,946.16. The Nasdaq Composite Index plunged 71.31 points, or 1.59 percent, to 4,422.08.
Calling the selloff a "perfect storm," Mark Otto, Partner/ Designated Market Maker at J. Streicher & Co., told Xinhua that the decline was the result of "global growth worries being amplified by macroeconomic data, geopolitical turmoil and speculation on Fed policy regarding interest rates."
"The selloff wasn't chaotic though," Otto said, noting that the CBOE Volatility Index, often referred to as Wall Street's fear gauge, was down mildly most of the day and ended up just 2.45 percent at the close to 16.71.
U.S. stocks reacted little to better-than-expected jobs growth in the private sector, as investors were awaiting the Labor Department's nonfarm payroll report for September due on Friday.
U.S. private sector employment increased by 213,000 jobs in September, marking the sixth straight month of employment gains above 200,000, according to a report released Wednesday by payrolls processor ADP.
Economic activity in the U.S. manufacturing sector continued to expand in September, but the growth pace was slower.
The Institute for Supply Management said its Purchasing Managers' Index (PMI) registered 56.6 in September, down from 59 in August, missing analysts' estimates.
According to financial data firm Markit, its final reading of the U.S. Manufacturing PMI declined slightly to 57.5 in September from 57.9 in August.
U.S. construction spending unexpectedly fell 0.8 percent in August, said the Commerce Department. Analysts had forecast a 0.5- percent rise.
Concerns about the eurozone economy added to the woes on the U. S. market.
Separate reports from Markit showed the eurozone manufacturing sector slowed closer to stagnation in September, with the final eurozone manufacturing PMI falling to a 14-month low of 50.3.
While the final PMI reading for Germany, the region's largest economy, slipped to a 15-month low of 49.9, below the 50 dividing line for the first time since June 2013, said Markit. A reading above 50 suggests an expansion while a register below the mark means a contraction.
On Tuesday, U.S. stocks wrapped up the September trading lower, but logging gains for the third quarter.
In other markets, the U.S. dollar rose slightly against most major currencies Wednesday. In late New York trading, the euro fell to 1.2609 dollars from 1.2631 dollars in the previous session. The greenback bought 109.19 Japanese yen, lower than 109.70 yen of the previous session.
Crude prices fell after paring early gains. Light, sweet crude for November delivery moved down 0.43 dollars to settle at 90.73 dollars a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange, while Brent crude for November delivery lost 0.51 dollars to close at 94.16 dollars a barrel.
Gold futures on the COMEX division of the New York Mercantile Exchange rose as investors shunned riskier assets like stocks but turned to gold as a safe haven.
The most active gold contract for December delivery rose 3.9 dollars, or 0.32 percent, to settle at 1,215.5 dollars per ounce.