Major U.S. stock indices fell sharply again Wednesday on concerns about an oversupplied energy market, with the Dow Jones industrial average shedding more than 350 points, or more than 2 percent.
The S&P 500 also finished down more than 2 percent and finished below 1,900 for the first time since September -- officially in "correction" territory, meaning it is down at least 10 percent from its November peak. The tech-heavy Nasdaq composite index was hammered even harder losing more than 3 percent of its value.
The Dow finished the day down 364.6 points, or 2.21 percent; the S&P lost 48.38 points, or 2.5 percent, and the Nasdaq dropped 159.85 points, or 3.41 percent.
The markets rallied early in the day on better-than-expected news on Chinese exports, but the optimism was punctured by U.S. data on oil and gas inventories.
Benchmark Brent crude slipped below $30 a barrel, a day after U.S. oil prices breached that level, before settling at $30.31 a barrel, down 55 cents or 1.8 percent.
U.S. crude settled at $30.48, up 4 cents or 0.1 percent after dropping as low as $30.10. On Tuesday, it dropped as low as $29.93, which was last seen in December 2003.
The deepening slide in oil prices and concerns about China's economy have rattled equity markets, which have failed to sustain any significant rallies in early 2016.
"There is a fear that the global economy and the U.S. economy as well could lapse into a recession given the fall in energy prices and greater economic weakness overseas," said Tim Ghriskey, chief investment officer of Solaris Asset Management in New York.
Investors, who have been hoping that stocks were primed to bounce because of the market's oversold conditions, are looking for confidence from the fourth-quarter earnings season set to begin in earnest later this week with major banks reporting.