Exxon Mobil Corp. and Freeport-McMoRan Copper & Gold Inc. declined more than 4.8 percent as crude, copper and gold slid. Coventry Health Care Inc. tumbled 38 percent as the health insurer's earnings were dragged down by bad investments and rising medical costs. SanDisk Corp. sank 30 percent after Samsung Electronics Co. abandoned its takeover bid. European and Asian shares fell, while an index of emerging market stocks slumped 6 percent on concern Argentina may default on its debt.
The Standard & Poor's 500 Index slipped 32.59, or 3.41 percent, to 922.46 as of 9:51 a.m. in New York. The Dow Jones Industrial Average slid 298.52 or 3.3 percent. The Nasdaq Composite Index lost 27.70, or 1.63 percent. Twenty stocks dropped for each that rose on the New York Stock Exchange.
Canadian stocks fell for a second day as prices of commodities declined further. The Standard & Poor's/TSX Composite Index fell 2.81 percent to 9,520.30 at 9:51 a.m. in Toronto.
European equities fell sharply on Wednesday, as the spectre of global recession dragged energy and industrial stocks lower.
U.K. stocks dropped for a second day after the Bank of England Governor Mervyn King said the country faces a recession and oil and metals prices fell. The FTSE 100 Index slipped 145.78, or 3.45 percent at 2:36 p.m. in London.
German stocks declined for a second day as investor concern deepened that a global economic slowdown may curb corporate earnings. The benchmark DAX Index declined 162.98 or 3.41 percent as of 3:36 p.m. in Frankfurt.
Japan stocks plunged, driving the Topix index down more than 7 percent for the fourth time in two weeks, on concern the slowing global economy will weigh on profits and as the tumbling euro cut the value of European sales. The Nikkei 225 Stock Average dropped 631.56, or 6.8 percent, to close at 8,674.69 in Tokyo, its first retreat since Oct. 16.
Australian S&P/ASX 200 Index fell 146.40 points, or 3.4 percent, to 4,156.10 at the close in Sydney, after a two-day, 8.4 percent advance.
Indian stocks fell, with the benchmark index declining for the first day in three, as weak corporate earnings heightened concern the economy will slow. The Bombay Stock Exchange's Sensitive Index, or Sensex, fell 513.49, or 4.8 percent, to 10,169.90.
China's benchmark stock index declined, led by smelters and utilities, as corporate earnings fell amid a slowing economy. The CSI 300 Index, which tracks yuan-denominated stocks traded in Shanghai and Shenzhen, declined 48.08, or 2.6 percent, to 1,833.32 at the close, extending this year's drop to 66 percent.
Russian stocks declined, led by oil producers OAO Lukoil and OAO Rosneft, after crude prices fell below $70 a barrel. The Micex Index of 30 stocks dropped 37.6, or 5.76 percent, heading for the first decline in three days.