US Markets

Dow plunges more than 450 points as Wall Street continues its rough start to the fourth quarter

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Stocks fell sharply on Wednesday, adding to Wall Street's poor start to the final quarter of 2019 as investors grapple with fears of an economic recession.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average declined by 494.42 points, or 1.9% to close at 26,078.68. The Dow also broke below its 50-day and 100-day moving averages, two technical levels watched by traders. The S&P 500 lost 1.8% to 2,887.61 to fall below its 100-day moving average as the tech sector dropped 2%. All 11 S&P 500 sectors were down, with 10 of them sliding at least 1.2%.

The Nasdaq Composite slid 1.6% to 7,785.25 as large-cap tech companies followed the broader market lower. Amazon, Apple and Alphabet all dropped at least 1.3%. Microsoft shares also fell 1.8%.

"It now seems the amount of time we've been biding and our inability to actually get a trade deal is now actually affecting growth," said Yousef Abbasi, director of U.S. institutional equities at INTL FCStone. "The mentality is shifting from 'do we get a trade deal and how does that affect growth' to 'how much longer do we have to wait?'"

"People now seem to be gravitating toward the idea that you've essentially paralyzed the corporate community from investing," Abbasi said.

Equities were down on the second day of the fourth quarter after the Institute for Supply Management said U.S. manufacturing activity fell last month to its lowest level in more than 10 years.

Traders work during the opening bell at the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) on October 2, 2019 at Wall Street in New York City.
Johannes Eisele | AFP | Getty Images

The weak data sent the major indexes tumbling on Tuesday, the first day of the fourth quarter. The Dow dropped more than 300 points while the S&P 500 slid 1.2%, their biggest one-day drops since Aug. 23. Those losses were enough to wipe out the Dow and S&P 500's gains for the entire third quarter. Both indexes gained 1.2% in the previous quarter.

"The market might be getting a little ahead of itself," said Sam Stovall, chief investment strategist at CFRA Research. "We have to be reminded that manufacturing represents about 10% of our economy while services represents about 90%. The services side is strongly in expansionary mode."

"You can't just ignore this, but you have to take it with a grain of salt," Stovall added.

Nicholas Colas, co-founder of DataTrek Research, said the market will "want to see real progress" from the upcoming U.S.-China trade talks after the disappointing data. "Markets will be looking for positive commentary from both sides going into this meeting and tangible steps to an agreement immediately after," he said in a note.

Chinese and U.S. officials are scheduled to meet in Washington next week. Both sides have been in a trade war since last year that has rattled investor sentiment and economic growth expectations.

—CNBC's Silvia Amaro contributed to this report.