Wall Street skidded on Wednesday as troubling signs from U.S. corporations and falling demand for long-lasting manufactured goods discouraged investors already nervous about faltering debt talks in Washington.
Weighing on technology shares, Juniper Networks Inc tumbled 20.1 percent after the company warned late Tuesday its second-quarter results would miss expectations. The Nasdaq fell 2 percent shortly after the open.
Moderating order growth at Emerson Electric Co added to investors' concern about industrial companies after weak earnings in the sector. Emerson's shares fell nearly 7 percent.
The S&P 500-stock index has lost more than 2 percent this week as acrimonious debate about raising the U.S. debt ceiling has left investors fretting over a U.S. debt default or a possible credit downgrade later in the year.
"We haven't been committing new capital. We've been holding off on making any purchases over the last few days," said Eric Kuby, chief investment officer at North Star Investment Management Corp in Chicago. "If you multiply us by the other 10,000 money managers, you get a sense of why the market is getting a little soft."
The Dow Jones industrial average dropped 92.26 points, or 0.74 percent, to 12,409.04. The Standard & Poor's 500-stock index fell 14.43 points, or 1.08 percent, to 1,317.51. The Nasdaq Composite Index lost 43.79 points, or 1.54 percent, to 2,796.17.
The S&P 500 and the Nasdaq have fallen for three straight days while the Dow was eyeing its fourth day of losses.
Corporate earnings have been coming in relatively weak in recent days, compared to the beginning of the earnings season, with concern centering on some big industrial names.
Industrial conglomerate Emerson Electric Co said its order growth moderated in the three months to June and warned that U.S. and European economies have slowed in the past two months. The stock fell 6.6 percent to $50.46.
Emerson's news came after troubling signs from Caterpillar , Whirlpool , Ingersoll-Rand , and PepsiCo
, all of which were punished hard in their share price by investors.
"We started off the earnings season with a bang, but the ones that we've been getting in the past few days, mostly industrial ones, have been on the light side, and often pointing to an economic slowdown," said Jack DeGan, chief investment officer at Harbor Advisory Corp in Portsmouth, New Hampshire.
Semiconductors were among the weakest technology shares. The PHLX semiconductor index fell 3.6 percent. Texas Instruments fell 2.9 percent to $30.61.
But on the upside, Amazon.com Inc rose 5 percent at $224.54 a day after the online retailer reported a surge in quarterly revenue.
In Washington, a Republican plan to cut the U.S. deficit met stiff opposition, reducing the chances of a late compromise to avoid a default.
Further pressuring the market, new orders for long-lasting U.S. manufactured goods fell unexpectedly in June, and a gauge of business spending plans slipped.
(Editing by Kenneth Barry)