Stocks tumbled in the final hour of trading on Wednesday, with the Dow posting its sixth-straight day in the red, as investors digested the minutes from the latest Federal Reserve policy meeting.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 105 points to close below the psychologically-important 15,000 mark for the first time since July 3. The blue-chip index has plunged nearly 700 points, or approximately 4.5 percent, from its record high of 15,658.36 on Aug. 2.
The CBOE Volatility Index (VIX), widely considered the best gauge of fear in the market, jumped near 16.
Stocks initially spiked lower following release of the Fed minutes but rebounded within a half hour to wipe out all of the day's losses. But then selling renewed aggressively into the close.
"The Fed must be feeling significant political and global pressure to begin tapering because their language described in today's minutes release does not correspond to the current macro economic climate of the country," wrote Todd Schoenberger, managing partner at LandColt Capital.
"More importantly, the risk of reducing QE is higher than maintaining the current program because the negative impact would multiply if the Fed cut too soon, and had to revert back to the current bond buying schedule."
"Bottom line: Wall Street traders are angry and confused by today's release," he added.
The Federal Reserve is considering a new tool to help it drain cash from the banking system and keep short-term interest rates at their targeted level when it decides to shift away from its current ultra-loose monetary policy, according to minutes of the Fed's latest policy meeting.
Benchmark 10-year Treasury note yields hit a fresh session high of 2.884 percent following the minutes. Yields have surged recently to two-year highs on expectations the Fed will soon slow its $85 billion monthly purchases of Treasuries and mortgage-backed securities. Other assets around the world have also been hit, with riskier emerging markets getting especially hammered.
(Read more:Three reasons everyone is dead wrong about bonds)
Goldman Sachs experienced a glitch on Tuesday that resulted in a large number of erroneous single stock and ETF options trades. Many of the trades may wind up being erased, but the error could still cost the firm over $100 million, according to a person familiar with the situation.
On the economic front, existing home sales jumped 6.5 percent in July to an annualized rate of 5.39 million, according to the National Association of Realtors. Economists in a Reuters survey expected a total of 5.15 million annualized units versus 5.08 million annualized units in June.
Weekly mortgage applications declined for a second week and rising interest rates put a damper on refinancing activity, according to data from the Mortgage Bankers Association.