Stocks tumbled again in the final hour of trading to close near session lows in heavily volatile trading Wednesday, with the Dow posting its sixth-straight day in the red, as investors digested the minutes from the latest Fed policy meeting.
Stocks initially spiked lower following the minutes but rebounded within a half hour to wipe out all of the day's losses. Selling renewed aggressively into the close, with the major averages closing near session lows.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average slumped 105.44 points to close at 14,897.55, finishing below the psychologically-important 15,000 mark for the first time since July 3. Alcoa and Hewlett-Packard were the biggest Dow laggards.
The blue-chip index has plunged nearly 700 points, or approximately 4.5 percent, since hitting its record high of 15,658.36 on Aug. 2.
The CBOE Volatility Index (VIX), widely considered the best gauge of fear in the market, jumped near 16.
All key S&P sectors closed in negative territory, led by utilities and telecoms.
Minutes from the Federal Reserve's latest policy meeting showed almost all the policymakers on the central bank's Federal Open Market Committee agreed that a change to the stimulus was not yet appropriate, though some hesitation remained.
"The Fed must be feeling significant political and global pressure to begin tapering because their language described in today's minutes release does not correspond to the current macro economic climate of the country," wrote Todd Schoenberger, managing partner at LandColt Capital.
"Bottom line: Wall Street traders are angry and confused by today's release."
Benchmark 10-year Treasury note yields hit a fresh session high of 2.895 percent following the minutes. Yields have surged recently to two-year highs on expectations the Fed will soon slow its $85 billion monthly purchases of Treasuries and mortgage-backed securities. Other assets around the world have also been hit, with riskier emerging markets getting especially hammered.
(Read more: Three reasons everyone is dead wrong about bonds)
Among earnings, Target declined after the retail giant warned its annual earnings will likely be near the lower end of its previous forecast as the company anticipates ongoing cautious consumer spending.
Staples plunged to lead the S&P 500 laggards after the office supplies retailer posted earnings and revenue that missed projections, citing weakness in its retail stores and international operations.
American Eagle Outfitters dropped sharply after the teen apparel retailer issued disappointing guidance for the crucial back-to-school quarter. Additionally, the company said same-store sales will drop by a mid-to-high single digit percentage in the current quarter. Rivals Abercrombie & Fitch and Aeropostale also declined.
Meanwhile, Lowe's rallied to lead the S&P 500 gainers after the home-improvement company topped quarterly expectations and boosted its full-year outlook. The news came a day after rival Home Depot posted strong earnings results.
Hewlett-Packard edged lower after the company reassigned Dave Donatelli, the executive vice president in charge of the firm's enterprise group to a new role. Donatelli's new role will be announced when the company posts its quarterly results after the closing bell.
L Brands, parent company of Victoria's Secret, is also slated to post earnings after the closing bell.
Apple climbed, bucking the downward trend of the broader markets, after UBS raised its price target on the iPhone maker to $560 from $500.
Goldman Sachs experienced a glitch on Tuesday that resulted in a large number of erroneous single stock and ETF options trades. Many of the trades may wind up being erased, but the error could still cost the firm over $100 million, according to a person familiar with the situation.
On the economic front, existing home sales jumped 6.5 percent in July to an annualized rate of 5.39 million, according to the National Association of Realtors. Economists in a Reuters survey expected a total of 5.15 million annualized units versus 5.08 million annualized units in June.
Weekly mortgage applications declined for a second week and rising interest rates put a damper on refinancing activity, according to data from the Mortgage Bankers Association.
—By CNBC's JeeYeon Park (Follow JeeYeon on Twitter: @JeeYeonParkCNBC)
What's Happening This Week:
THURSDAY: Jobless claims, PMI manufacturing index flash, FHFA home price index, leading indicators, natural gas inventories, Fed's Fisher speaks, Fed balance sheet/money supply, Walmart summit; Earnings from Dollar Tree, Gamestop, Gold Fields, Hormel Foods, Sears, Abercrombie & Fitch, Autodesk, Gap, Marvell, Ross Stores, Aeropostale, Pandora
FRIDAY: New home sales; Earnings from Ann, Foot Locker
What's Trending on CNBC.com: