Wall Street stocks fell sharply in early trade Wednesday following a disappointing US retail sales report and lackluster earnings from large banks.
About 35 minutes into trade, the Dow Jones Industrial Average stood at 17,406.54, down 207.14 points (1.18 percent).
The broad-based S&P 500 tumbled 18.11 (0.90 percent) to 2,004.92, while the tech-rich Nasdaq Composite Index shed 22.63 (0.49 percent) at 4,638.87
US retail sales fell a steep 0.9 percent in December from the prior month, suggesting weakness in consumer spending during the critical holiday-shopping season.
The December drop surprised analysts, who on average had penciled in a modest 0.1 percent increase.
Dow member JPMorgan Chase dived 4.3 percent after reporting a 6.6 percent drop in fourth-quarter earnings to $4.9 billion following $1 billion in legal expenses. The results fell short of expectations.
Wells Fargo dipped 0.6 percent after notching earnings of $1.02 per share, matching expectations.
The Wall Street sell-off extended a three-session losing streak.
"The market action reflects an underlying nervousness," said Briefing.com. "It certainly isn't panic, but the fragile conditions may continue through the early part of earnings season."
General Motors fell 2.5 percent after it said it spent nearly $2 billion for recalls and victims' compensation in 2014. The biggest US automaker projected improved earnings and margins in 2015 behind "modest" growth in overall auto sales worldwide.
Electric-car maker Tesla Motors sank 5.5 percent after founder and chief executive Elon Musk acknowledged lower fuel costs threaten the electric car industry and said the company probably will not be profitable until 2020.
Metals producers suffered as copper prices fell sharply. Freeport-McMoran slumped 10.5 percent, while Southern Copper lost 8.2 percent.
Retail stocks retreated, including Dow member Wal-Mart Stores (-1.3 percent), Target (-1.7 percent) and TJX (-1.2 percent), owner of Marshall's and other discount chains.
Large banks fell. Citigroup lost 2.8 percent, while Dow member Goldman Sachs fell 1.9 percent. Both report earnings later this week.
Bond prices advanced. The yield on the 10-year US Treasury fell to 1.82 percent from 1.90 percent Tuesday, while the 30-year fell to 2.43 percent from 2.50 percent. Bond prices and yields move inversely.