Stocks fell sharply in late afternoon trading Wednesday as a dismal start to the new year got even worse. The selling was concentrated on some of the biggest winners from last year such as Netflix and Amazon, both of which doubled in value in 2015.
At the close on Wall Street, the Dow Jones industrial average was down 364.8 points, about 2.2 percent, to 16,151.4. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index lost 48.4 points, about 2.5 percent, to 1,890.3. The Nasdaq composite gave up nearly 160 points, about 3.4 percent, to 4,526.1.
As markets closed, the price of U.S. benchmark crude oil was up 5 cents, about 0.2 percent, at $30.49 a barrel in trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. It had wavered between small losses and gains all day. It had been up more than 3 percent in the first hour of trading, but stumbled on a report showing that demand for fuels slipped last week. Prior to that, crude had fallen for the previous seven trading days. It’s down 18 percent so far this year.
TIED TO OIL: Several oil and gas companies fell sharply as crude prices wavered. Williams Cos. tumbled $2.58, or 15.6 percent to $13.95. Consol Energy slid 82 cents, or 12.2 percent, to $5.88. Valero Energy shed $6.39, or 9 percent, to $64.80. Investors are concerned that a continued slide in oil prices could create layoffs and business problems for the oil and gas industry.
ANALYST’S OPINION: “We’re still waiting to see how earnings come out, and whether oil prices move back down again or stabilize here,” said Ed Keon, managing director and portfolio manager for QMA.