Strong earnings reports in the coming weeks could soothe investor nerves, but negative comments from company executives about future profits could have the opposite effect.
Earnings season is underway.
The S&P 500 index sank 94.66 points, or 3.3 percent, to 2,785.68. The index has declined 6.7 percent during its current losing streak.
Insurance companies dropped as Hurricane Michael continued to gather strength and came ashore in Florida bringing winds of up to 155 miles an hour.
The tumble came after the Dow Jones industrial average closed 831.83 points lower, its third-worst point decline ever, in NY trading on Wednesday amid concerns over a rise in interest rates.
The Nasdaq composite, with a large contingent of tech stocks, tumbled 315.97 points, or 4.1 percent, to 7,422.05. The Russell 2000 index of smaller-company stocks fell 30.03 points, or 1.9 percent, to 1,545.38.
Fears over the worldwide trade war, rising rate hikes, the impact of Hurricane Michael, the upcoming US midterm elections and a potentially disappointing Q3 earnings season likely all played a role in the weak market. But they are also possibly leading indicators of the end of a historic bull market, in which stock-market indexes continue upward quarter after quarter. Australia's S&P/ASX 200 slipped 2.4 percent to 5,906.00. "With all due respect, I don't think this is anything resembling a sugar high". That's good news for markets: If inflation were to spike, it would push the Federal Reserve to get more aggressive in raising interest rates. On Wednesday he said he thought policy makers were "making a mistake" and said the Fed had "gone crazy".
Hurricane Michael effects possible for Beaufort County
Florida Governor Rick Scott declared a state of emergency in 35 counties along the Florida Panhandle and Big Bend. The storm's center and where it makes landfall with its destructive winds represent just one of several concerns.
Trump said he had no intention of firing Jerome Powell, who he appointed as Fed chairman in February.
Benchmark U.S. Treasury 10-year notes rose 14/32 in price, pushing their yield down to 3.1724 percent. The Kospi in South Korea fell 3.6 percent to 2,148.97. Over the past two days, it has lost more than 1,300 points. Microsoft and Alphabet, Google's parent company, held up better than the rest of the market.
The renminbi had fallen "significantly" during the year and the Treasury Department is monitoring this "very carefully" to make sure China wasn't manipulating its currency to gain an advantage in the trade war, Mnuchin told the Financial Times in an interview. Markets are still rattled and they appear headed for a second day of significant losses.
At 11:22 a.m. ET, the Toronto Stock Exchange's S&P/TSX composite index was down 123.08 points, or 0.79 per cent, at 15,392.22.
United States crude settled down $1.79 at $73.17 per barrel and Brent fell $1.91 to settle at $83.09. Wholesale gasoline, heating oil and natural gas also declined.
The rates rose Wednesday after the government released data showing the producer price index rose 0.2 percent in September and is up 2.8 percent on a year-over-year basis. The price of gold jumped 2.9 percent to $1,227.60 an ounce.
The Japanese yen strengthened 0.01 per cent versus the greenback at 112.29.