Bond prices rose, sending yields lower, as investors sought out safer investments.
Australian shares are also headed for a substantial drop this morning, following the collapse in USA investor sentiment. "The sentiment and the outlook seems to be turning more negative, or at the very least, less rosy".
Asian futures sunk, threatening to push the MSCI Asia Pacific Index deeper into a bear market with the gauge already down 20 percent from a January peak. Recent data showing the housing market is slowing have also fueled speculation that USA economic growth will start to slow next year. Some companies, including Caterpillar and 3M, have reported disappointing results and warned of rising costs related to tariffs related to the U.S.
THE QUOTE: "You've seen more discouraging (company) commentary this quarter than you have the last two", said Tom Martin, senior portfolio manager with Globalt Investments.
Hong Kong's Hang Seng index sank 3.1 percent. The Nasdaq slid 131 points, or 1.8 percent, to 7,306. The tech-heavy Nasdaq slid 329.14 points, or 4.4 per cent, to 7,108.40.
Even with the late-afternoon rebound, stocks extended the market's recent string of declines, giving the benchmark S&P 500 index its fifth-straight loss.
Bond prices rose. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note fell to 3.13 per cent.
Consistent with the other huge drops in recent weeks, technology stocks suffered big losses.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average was higher thanks to the gain in Boeing. Texas Instruments, a major chipmaker, slumped 8.2 per cent and AT&T fell 8.1 per cent.
China's economy grew 6.5 percent from July to September, the slowest pace since early 2009.
The falls on Wall Street came after official figures showed USA home sales fell to their slowest pace in almost two years, and a Federal Reserve report indicated that companies across America were concerned about the impact of tariffs and widespread labour shortages.
3M fell 6.3 per cent after its earnings missed Wall Street's targets. Homebuilders declined after the government said sales of new US homes declined in September for the fourth straight month.
Stocks clawed back much of the ground they lost in an early plunge but still ended lower, continuing a dismal month for the stock market. While those companies are expected to deliver 21.9 percent earnings growth for the third quarter, investors are concerned about future growth amid rising inflation, interest rates and uncertainty over trade.
The decline in oil price weighed on energy stocks. Helped by tax cuts, the economy expanded at a 4.2 percent annual pace from April through June, fastest in almost four years.
European Central Bank policy makers could on Thursday confirm that asset purchases will end this year, reiterating its pledge to keep interest rates at record lows through summer 2019. The Federal Reserve in September raised short-term interest rates for the third time this year, and most forecasters predict a fourth hike in December. "The economy is on solid footing", analysts at BNP Paribas wrote Wednesday.
ENERGY: Benchmark U.S. crude edged up 0.6 percent to settle at $66.82 a barrel in NY. Brent crude, used to price worldwide oils, dropped 2.8 percent to $77.57 per barrel in London.
Heating oil was little changed at $2.25 a gallon. Anadarko Petroleum gained 1.2 percent to $61.10. It's shares rose 1.4%. In Russia, the RTS dollar index was losing 0.46 percent, while the ruble-denominated MOEX was trading flat. Silver dropped 0.8 percent to $14.68 an ounce. Copper dropped 1 percent to $2.76 a pound. It was down 62 points, or 0.3 percent, to 25,254.