Nasdaq confirms correction while S&P 500 and Dow erase 2018 gains

NEW YORK (Reuters) - U.S. stocks plunged again on Wednesday, confirming a correction for the Nasdaq and erasing the Dow and the S&P 500’s gains for the year, as disappointing forecasts from chipmakers and weak home sales data fueled jitters about economic and profit growth.

The Nasdaq closed down 12.4 percent from its Aug. 29 record closing high, falling 4.4 percent for the day in its biggest one-day percentage decline since Aug. 18, 2011.

Chipmakers Texas Instruments and STMicroelectronics STM.PASTM.N warned of slowing demand. They followed disappointing forecasts on Tuesday from Caterpillar CAT.N and 3M MMM.N.

The forecasts gave investors further reason to pause and helped fuel the selling momentum, said Peter Tuz, president of Chase Investment Counsel in Charlottesville, Virginia.

“Once a snowball like this starts, it doesn’t stop until it gets to the bottom of the hill. And we don’t know if we’re at the bottom yet,” Tuz said.

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Stocks have been punished this month by a range of worries, from rising borrowing costs and bond yields to Italy’s budget and U.S. congressional elections due in less than two weeks.

On Wednesday, data showed sales of new U.S. single-family homes fell to a near two-year low in September, the latest sign that rising mortgage rates and higher prices were hurting demand for housing.

Adding to weaker sentiment in late trading, the Federal Reserve said in a report on the economy that U.S. factories have raised prices because of tariffs.

The Cboe Volatility Index .VIX, the most widely followed barometer of expected near-term gyrations for the S&P 500, jumped 4.52 points to close at 25.23, its highest close since Feb. 12. The S&P 500 fell for a sixth consecutive day.

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“It looks like more panic and fear as the selling has continued to roll,” said Chris Zaccarelli, Chief Investment Officer for Independent Advisor Alliance based in Charlotte, North Carolina.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average .DJI fell 608.01 points, or 2.41 percent, to 24,583.42, the S&P 500 .SPX lost 84.59 points, or 3.09 percent, to 2,656.1 and the Nasdaq Composite .IXIC dropped 329.14 points, or 4.43 percent, to 7,108.40.

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Texas Instruments TXN.O dropped 8.2 percent, helping pull the Philadelphia Semiconductor index .SOX down 6.6 percent in its biggest daily percentage drop since October 2014. Intel INTC.O, due to report earnings later this week, fell 4.7 percent.

The beaten-down S&P technology sector retreated .SPLRCT another 4.4 percent.

While third-quarter profit growth estimates have risen to 22.4 percent from 21.6 percent in the last 10 days, weaker forecasts have pulled down fourth-quarter growth estimates to 19.5 percent from 20 percent, according to I/B/E/S data from Refinitiv.

Declining issues outnumbered advancing ones on the NYSE by a 3.38-to-1 ratio; on Nasdaq, a 5.42-to-1 ratio favored decliners.

The S&P 500 posted 14 new 52-week highs and 91 new lows; the Nasdaq Composite recorded 15 new highs and 445 new lows.

About 9.6 billion shares changed hands on U.S. exchanges. That compares with the 8 billion daily average for the past 20 trading days.

After the closing bell, Microsoft MSFT.O rose 2.7 percent following the release of its results.

Additional reporting by Kate Duguid and Sinead Carew in New York; Editing by Bill Berkrot and James Dalgleish