Investors unloaded materials, financials and other stocks, briefly knocking the DowJones Industrial Average down more than 400 points.
Technology shares, which soared last year, were targeted for especially aggressive selling, bringing the tech-heavy Nasdaq composite index down almost 20 percent from its record high last year.
The losses left major market indexes down for the second day in a row, extending what has been a dismal beginning of 2016 for the stock market, its worst start to a year on record.
European markets also fell sharply, with the worst losses coming in weaker economies such as Greece, Spain, and Italy. Traditional safe harbor investments like gold and U.S. government bonds were among the few bright spots in a market awash in red.
The Dow fell 177.92 points, or 1.1 percent, to 16,027.05. The Standard & Poor’s 500 lost 26.61 points, or 1.4 percent, to 1,853.44. The Nasdaq composite dropped 79.39 points, or 1.8 percent, to 4,283.75. The index is within 110 points of being in what Wall Street considers a bear market, or a 20 percent drop from its high.
For the year, the Dow is now down 8 percent, while the S&P 500 is down 9.3 percent. The Nasdaq has lost 14.5 percent this year.
The stock market has been in a slump for much of this year after a lackluster 2015. Several factors have kept investors in a selling mood, including falling crude oil prices, the impact of a stronger dollar on U.S. company earnings, and heightened concern that economic growth is slowing in China and elsewhere.
The market anxiety helped push bond prices higher, pulling down the yield on the 10-year Treasury note to 1.75 percent from 1.84 percent late Friday, a large move.
Investors looking for some positive outlooks for 2016 aren’t finding much in the latest wave of company earnings, either.
Benchmark U.S. crude oil fell $1.20, or 3.9 percent, to close at $29.69 a barrel in New York. Brent crude, a benchmark for international oils, dropped $1.18, or 3.5 percent, to close at $32.88 a barrel in London.
Monday’s market slump followed a wave of selling in Europe that was concentrated in the more financially shaky countries. The stock index in Spain was off roughly 4 percent, while Italy’s lost about 5 percent. Greece’s index sank about 8 percent.
The larger stock markets didn’t fare much better.
Germany’s DAX fell 3.3 percent, while France’s CAC 40 dropped 3.2 percent. The FTSE 100 index of leading British shares slid 2.7 percent.
In Asia, many markets were closed for the Lunar New Year holidays. Japan’s benchmark Nikkei 225 rose 1.1 percent, while Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 was flat.
Precious metals prices rose sharply as traders took cover from the turbulence in the stock market.
Gold jumped $40.20, or 3.5 percent, to $1,197.90 an ounce and silver climbed 64.8 cents, or 4.4 percent, to $15.43 an ounce. Copper, an industrial metal that will often rise and fall along with investor’s optimism about the global economy, slipped 1.3 cents to $2.09 a pound.
In other energy trading in New York, wholesale gasoline fell 3.7 cents, or 3.7 percent, to 95.61 cents a gallon and home heating oil fell 1.3 cents to $1.046 a gallon. Natural gas rose 7.7 cents, or 3.7 percent, to $2.14 per 1,000 cubic feet.