WALL Street moved deep into the red in volatile trading on Wednesday, extending this year’s sell-off as oil prices continued to plummet unabated.

The rout was across the board: all 30 Dow components and all 10 major S&P sectors were in the red, with five down more than 3%. The small-cap Russell’s 2000 index fell 2.7%.

The New York Stock Exchange recorded 1,314 stocks hitting new 52-week lows, while 809 sank to new lows on the Nasdaq, the most on a single day since August 24 for both exchanges.

The beaten-down S&P energy sector’s 5% fall led the decliners. Chevron dropped 5.3% and Exxon 3.2%. U.S. crude prices sank 6.6% and Brent crude fell 4.7% as a supply glut bumped up against bearish financial news that deepened worries over demand.

"The damage being done in energy is spreading," said Brian Fenske, head of sales trading at ITG in New York. "Just getting up every morning and seeing the S&P futures down 1% to 2% has a near-term psychological impact and puts some investors into risk-off mode," Mr Fenske said.

At 4.52pm GMT, the Dow Jones industrial average was down 436.37 points, or 2.72%, at 15,579.65.

The S&P 500 was down 53.24 points, or 2.83%, at 1,828.09, within touching distance of its October 2014 low.

The Nasdaq Composite index was down 122.92 points, or 2.75%, at 4,354.03. The index has closed higher in only two of the 12 trading sessions this year.

The CBOE volatility index, Wall Street’s fear gauge, jumped 11% to 29. Gold, a traditional safe haven in times of turmoil, rose more than 1%.

Besides collapsing oil prices, fears of a slowdown in China, the world’s second-largest economy and a key market for US companies, has also weighed on equities and commodities, leading to turbulent start to the year on Wall Street.

The S&P 500 has fallen 8% this year, losing more than $1.4-trillion in value, according to Thomson Reuters data.

US corporate earnings are unlikely to offer relief: S&P 500 earnings on average are expected to fall 4.4%, according to Thomson Reuters data.

IBM fell 3.9% to $123.13 and Goldman Sachs dropped 2.3% to $153.22 after the Dow components issued disappointing earnings reports.

IBM weighed the most on the Dow, while Apple’s 2.7% drop weighed the most on the Nasdaq and the S&P 500.

Netflix was also swept up by the downbeat sentiment, dropping 6.8% to $100.51, despite reporting a better than expected growth in its subscriber base.

Declining issues outnumbered advancing ones on the NYSE by 3,009 to 114. On the Nasdaq, 2,451 issues fell and 335 rose.

The S&P 500 index showed no new 52-week highs and 169 new lows, while the Nasdaq recorded three new highs and 655 lows.

Reuters