Stocks accelerated their losses in the final minutes of trading to close near lows Wednesday, pressured by a handful of lackluster tech earnings and amid renewed concerns over the euro zone.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average slumped 82.79 points, or 0.63 percent, to close at 13,032.75, led by Intel and IBM .
The S&P 500 slid 5.64 points, or 0.41 percent, to finish at 1,385.14. The Nasdaq fell 11.37 points, or 0.37 percent, to end at 3,031.45.
The CBOE Volatility Index, widely considered the best gauge of fear in the market, closed above 18.
Among the key S&P sectors, financials and techs ended lower, while consumer discretionary squeezed out a small gain.
Intel was among the biggest blue-chip laggards even after the chipmaker beat earnings and revenue estimates as the firm said expenses related to ramping up new production would have a bigger impact on gross margins than expected. Still, at least eight brokerages raised their price target on the company.
IBM also topped earnings estimates and raised its outlook, but the tech giant's shares tumbled after revenue came in somewhat short of analyst expectations. At least seven brokerages boosted their price target on the firm.
“The reality is, this is a long-term game we’re in unless you’re a trader and these are cheaper stocks today across the board than they’ve been in a long time,” said Jerry Castellini, president and CIO CastleArk Management on CNBC’s “Power Lunch.”
AmEx , Ebay , Qualcomm and Yum Brands are among companies slated to report earnings after-the-bell tonight.
“We still think earnings are going to be strong and that’s going to help the markets for the next two to three weeks,” said Rick Fier, director of equity trading at Conifer Securities. “But you can’t ignore the European situation and the economic news that seems to get weaker…there’s a lot more talk about people paring back.”
Berkshire Hathaway slipped after Warren Buffett announced after the market close on Tuesday that he had been diagnosed with stage one prostate cancer. Buffett told CNBC nothing had changed in the company's succession plans.
Apple ended lower even after Goldman Sachs and Atlantic Equities raised their price target on the iPad maker.
In Europe, minutes out of the Bank of England showed that only one Monetary Policy Committee member still supported quantitative easing, with ultra-dove Adam Posen giving up his long-standing call for more stimulus.
Adding to woes, Portugal's prime minister wrote in an editorial in the Financial Times that the country may not return to capital markets in 2013 as previously expected. And Italy may delay by one year its plan to balance its budget and raised its budget deficit forecast.
Chesapeake Energy tumbled after a Reuters report that CEO Aubrey McClendon borrowed as much as $1.1 billionover the last three years against his stake in thousands of company wells.
Genworth Financial plunged to lead the S&P 500 laggards after the insurer delayed its Australian mortgage insurance unit's IPO to early next year.
Among other earnings news, BlackRock posted profit that beat estimates, while Bank of New York Mellon reported earnings in line with expectations.
Of the 56 S&P 500 companies that have posted earnings so far, 79 percent have topped estimates.
On the M&A front, SXC Health Solutions said it will acquire pharmacy benefit manager Catalyst Health Solutions in a deal valued at about $4.4 billionin cash and stock.
And Swiss food giant Nestle is nearing a deal to buy Pfizer's baby formula business for around $9 billion, according to a Wall Street Journal report.
Meanwhile, Illumina reversed its losses after Roche decided not to extend its $51 a share tender offerfor the biotech company. The stock had tumbled sharply earlier in the session.
YPF plunged sharply following the Argentinean government's announcement to take control of the oil and gas producer. Shares were halted for most of the morning.
Weekly mortgage applications surged last weekas a drop in interest rates boosted demand for refinancings, though purchases fell, according to The Mortgage Bankers Association.
—Follow JeeYeon Park on Twitter: @JeeYeonParkCNBC—
Coming Up This Week:
THURSDAY: Jobless claims, existing home sales, Philadelphia Fed survey, leading indicators; Earnings from BofA, DuPont, Morgan Stanley, Nokia, Travelers, Verizon, Microsoft, AMD, Capital One, SanDisk
FRIDAY: Earnings from GE, McDonald's, Schlumberger
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