US stocks plunge toward their worst loss in six months

Caution remains the key word across global markets as investors try to gauge whether the recent selloff has room to run

The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 198.28 points, or 0.77 per cent, to 25,400.46.

Technology and retail companies continued to stumble. The Nasdaq dropped more than 4% in the worst percentage decline since June 2016.

The moves come as positive economic data - including the unemployment rate standing at 3.7 percent, its lowest level since 1969 - stoked investor fears that the Federal Reserve would raise rates aggressively to prevent the economy from overheating.

Aphria Inc., which tumbled 3.6 per cent, was among the top decliners on the main index, after the cannabis producer said there was no investment deal in place.

Kinahan said investors want to know if Corporate America is anxious about the Trump administration's tariffs on Chinese imports and if it sees signs of slower economic growth.

That all played into a market that is increasingly anxious about global growth after warnings from the International Monetary Fund this week and a rise in Treasury yields to a more than 7-year high above 3 percent that signals a tightening of available capital globally. President Trump has broken from tradition and repeatedly criticized the Fed for raising interest rates.

While stocks fell, the price of gold jumped by 2.5pc to $US1,222 an ounce as investors rushed to safe-haven assets.

The two-year yield soared to its highest mark since 2008.

The tech-heavy index saw fractional declines a day after a rout in tech stocks marked the worst market drop in eight months.

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"I contend that the concerns of rising interest rates are largely overblown".

It followed a bleak session in Europe, where Germany's Dax and France's Cac 40 had each ended the day more than 2% lower. JPMorgan Chase and several other banks will report their third-quarter results Friday morning.

In health care, CVS sank 7.2 percent to $73.25 and Aetna sagged 2 percent to $199.37 after the New York Post said New York state regulators have concerns about CVS' purchase of the health insurer.

Tech stocks, hit hard Wednesday, fell slightly in early trading. After years of big gains, those stocks are now out of favor.

Some technology companies emerged relatively unscathed, with Facebook and Activision Blizzard advancing and Microsoft and Google parent Alphabet falling only modestly. The VIX Volatility Index was higher at 22.27 for a gain of 6.32 points or 39.62%. Still, they have held up better than the rest of the market during the recent skid.

USA crude settled down $1.79 at $73.17 per barrel and Brent fell $1.91 to settle at $83.09. Brent crude, the global standard, lost 2.2 per cent to $83.09 a barrel in London. The Nasdaq composite rose 15 points, or 0.2 percent, to 7,436. It has climbed 27.5 percent since Donald Trump was elected, and is still up 2.1 percent in 2018. Natural gas fell 1.9 percent to $3.22 per 1,000 cubic feet.

The small-cap Russell 2000 index, which is less sensitive than its larger peers to global worries such as trade and yields, was down 1.18 percent.

The dollar slipped to 112.17 Japanese yen from 112.27 yen late Wednesday.

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