Stocks slumped on Thursday with the Dow in a triple-digit fall and the Nasdaq dropping over 2 percent as biotech and technology shares declined and investors sought dividend-paying stocks and shed those viewed as risky.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average was 127 points lower in early afternoon trading, the S&P 500 shed 22 points and the Nasdaq was 93 points, or 2.2 percent, down.
Big-name momentum stocks including Tesla Motors, Facebook, Google, Priceline, and Amazon.com declined, along with biotechnology companies.
"Clearly investors are nervous about high-flying momentum stocks. There is a rethink on whether better earnings and economic data will support a resumption of the momentum that was driving biotechnology and higher-flying technology stocks earlier in the year," said Kate Warne, investment strategist at Edward Jones.
After a two-day winning streak, investors appeared to ignore a Labor Department report that weekly jobless claims dropped to the lowest level in nearly seven years. Government data showed that initial claims for state unemployment benefits dropped 32,000 to 300,000 last week, below expectations and the lowest since May 2007.
A separate report had import prices rising 0.6 percent last month after an unrevised 0.9 percent in February.
The dollar turned lower against the currencies of major U.S. trading partners; the 10-year Treasury yield used in determining mortgage rates and other consumer loans fell 6 basis points to 2.63 percent.
On the New York Mercantile Exchange, gold futures for June delivery gained $14.40, or 1.1 percent, to $1,320.30 an ounce, while crude-oil futures for May delivery fell 11 cents, or 0.1 percent, to $103.49 a barrel.
Stocks soared on Wednesday, with the Dow adding 180 points, after minutes from the Federal Reserve's last session offset concern about when the central bank would raise interest rates.