Collapsing oil prices and fears of a slowdown in China, the world’s second largest economy and a key market for U.S. companies, have led the S&P 500 to drop 9 percent this year. In the past six months, the energy sector has fallen 26 percent.
“The fear is, ‘Is tomorrow going to bring more selling?’ People are not even thinking about today, they’re thinking about tomorrow,” said Kim Forrest, senior equity research analyst at Fort Pitt Capital Group in Pittsburgh.
U.S. crude sank 6.6 percent on Wednesday as a supply glut bumped up against bearish financial reports that deepened worries over demand.
But a late-day bounce in U.S. oil prices helped reduce losses in stocks.
“If you look at crude prices, they are shooting right back up,” Randy Frederick, managing director of trading and derivatives for Charles Schwab in Austin, said ahead of the close.
The S&P 500 .SPX ended down 1.17 percent at 1,859.33, its lowest close since October 2014. It had fallen as low as 1,812.29.