Stocks sank in the last half hour of trading Thursday to close near the session's lows after a batch of economic reports failed to provide traders with enough optimism to continue a September rally.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 76.89 points, or 0.7 percent, to 10,662.42. Walt Disney and General Electric , were the top laggards, while Hewlett-Packard and Alcoa rose.
After reaching an intraday high of nearly 1137, the S&P 500 fell 9.45 points, or 0.8 percent, to 1,124.83. The Nasdaq, which had been in positive territory most of the day thanks to a boost in technology stocks, fell 7.47 points, or 0.3 percent, to 2,327.08. The CBOE Volatility Index, widely considered the best gauge of fear in the market, jumped more than 6 percent, to nearly 24.
The top 10 key S&P sectors fell, including technology, which had been higher most of the day.
Large financials fell including Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley , following earnings cuts by Bank of America Merrill Lynch and Rochdale Securities. Bank of America also cut Citigroup's 2010 earnings-per-share view to 39 cents a share from 41 cents, although it said the bank, as well as JPMorgan, have a business mix that makes them better positioned for a slower third quarter.
The tech sector jumped, led by Red Hat, which soared more than 10 percent after the world's biggest provider of Linux software reported lower second-quarter profit, but beat forecasts on a sharp increase in software sales. In addition, at least three brokerages raised their price targets on the firm.
Nvidia also soared after BMO raised the graphics processor designer to "outperform" from "market perform," and boosted its price target to $16 a share from $9, citing improvement in market share and stabilization in its discrete graphics business.
Apple shares rose after Caris raised its price target on the iPod maker to $375 from $325.
Meanwhile, shares of Novell sagged on reports the auction of the company's Netware and identity management products are dragging, according to Reuters.