U.S. stocks extended losses in the morning session Thursday, as Wall Street pondered over the ongoing uncertainty about the timing of a rate hike amid mixed economic reports.
By midday, the Dow Jones Industrial Average shed 195.89 points, or 1.13 percent, to 17,152.84. The S&P 500 dropped 22.00 points, or 1.06 percent, to 2,057.61. The Nasdaq Composite Index slumped 82.34 points, or 1.64 percent, to 4,936.71.
As there is no Federal Reserve policy meeting in August, investors were still sifting through the highly-watched minutes from the Fed's July meeting released Wednesday afternoon.
According to the minutes, most U.S. Fed officials believed conditions for tightening monetary policy were approaching, but they failed to give clear signals on the timing of the first interest rate hike in nearly nine years.
Market analysts widely see September or even later as the most likely time for a Fed rate increase.
Meanwhile, the diving oil prices also weighed on market sentiment. Oil prices decreased to its lowest level in more than six years on Wednesday, with the U.S. oil settling at near 40 dollars a barrel.
On an economic front, in the week ending Aug. 15, the advance figure for seasonally adjusted initial jobless claims increased 4,000 from the previous week's revised level to 277,000, exceeding market consensus of 270,000, the U.S. Labor Department reported Thursday.
The four-week moving average was 271,500, an increase of 5,500 from the previous week's revised average.
U.S. total existing-home sales increased 2.0 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.59 million in July from a downwardly revised 5.48 million in June, beating market estimates, said the National Association of Realtors Thursday.
Sales in July remained at the highest pace since February 2007, have now increased year-over-year for ten consecutive months.