Wall St tumbles to 2014 low as oil prices sink

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(Reuters) - Wall Street's recent selloff deepened on Wednesday, with the S&P 500 closing at its lowest in over a year as U.S. oil prices plummeted to 2003 lows.

SEE ALSO: Stock market slides again; worst two-week start to a year

The equities rout was widespread, hitting nine of the 10 major S&P sectors. The small-cap Russell's 2000 index <.RUT> fell 3.6 percent before reversing its loss late in the session.

The beaten-down S&P energy sector <.SPNY> fell 2.93 percent, leading the losers. Exxon <XOM.N> dropped 4.21 percent and Chevron <CVX.N> slumped 3.10 percent.

Collapsing oil prices and fears of a slowdown in China, the world's second largest economy and a key market for U.S. companies, have led the S&P 500 to drop 9 percent this year. In the past six months, the energy sector has fallen 26 percent.

Scenes from the New York Stock Exchange today:

13 PHOTOS
Wall Street stocks dip 1/20
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Wall St tumbles to 2014 low as oil prices sink
Michael Capolino, right, works with fellow traders on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange, Wednesday, Jan. 20, 2016. Energy stocks are leading another sell-off on Wall Street as the price of oil continues to plunge. (AP Photo/Richard Drew)
Specialist Michael Pistillo, left, works with traders at his post on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange, Wednesday, Jan. 20, 2016. Energy stocks are leading another sell-off on Wall Street as the price of oil continues to plunge. (AP Photo/Richard Drew)
Traders Richard Rosenblatt, left, and Gordon Charlop work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange, Wednesday, Jan. 20, 2016. Energy stocks are leading another sell-off on Wall Street as the price of oil continues to plunge. (AP Photo/Richard Drew)
Trader Leon Montana, left, works on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange, Wednesday, Jan. 20, 2016. Energy stocks are leading another sell-off on Wall Street as the price of oil continues to plunge. (AP Photo/Richard Drew)
Specialist Charles Boedinghaus works on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange, Wednesday, Jan. 20, 2016. Energy stocks are leading another sell-off on Wall Street as the price of oil continues to plunge. (AP Photo/Richard Drew)
Trader Gregory Rowe works on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange, Wednesday, Jan. 20, 2016. Energy stocks are leading another sell-off on Wall Street as the price of oil continues to plunge. (AP Photo/Richard Drew)
Trader Michael Smyth works on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange, Wednesday, Jan. 20, 2016. Energy stocks are leading another sell-off on Wall Street as the price of oil continues to plunge. (AP Photo/Richard Drew)
Trader Fady Tanois works on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange, Wednesday, Jan. 20, 2016. Energy stocks are leading another sell-off on Wall Street as the price of oil continues to plunge. (AP Photo/Richard Drew)
Trader George Ettinger, right, works on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange, Wednesday, Jan. 20, 2016. Energy stocks are leading another sell-off on Wall Street as the price of oil continues to plunge. (AP Photo/Richard Drew)
Traders Thomas Cicciari, left, and Kevin Lodewick work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange, Wednesday, Jan. 20, 2016. Energy stocks are leading another sell-off on Wall Street as the price of oil continues to plunge. (AP Photo/Richard Drew)
Trader William McNierney, center, works on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange, Wednesday, Jan. 20, 2016. Energy stocks are leading another sell-off on Wall Street as the price of oil continues to plunge. (AP Photo/Richard Drew)
Trader Robert McQuade, left, and specialist Vincent Surace work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange, Wednesday, Jan. 20, 2016. Energy stocks are leading another sell-off on Wall Street as the price of oil continues to plunge. (AP Photo/Richard Drew)
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"The fear is, 'Is tomorrow going to bring more selling?' People are not even thinking about today, they're thinking about tomorrow," said Kim Forrest, senior equity research analyst at Fort Pitt Capital Group in Pittsburgh.

U.S. crude sank 6.6 percent on Wednesday as a supply glut bumped up against bearish financial reports that deepened worries over demand.

But a late-day bounce in U.S. oil prices helped reduce losses in stocks.

"If you look at crude prices, they are shooting right back up," Randy Frederick, managing director of trading and derivatives for Charles Schwab in Austin, said ahead of the close.

The S&P 500 <.SPX> ended down 1.17 percent at 1,859.33, its lowest close since October 2014. It had fallen as low as 1,812.29.

The Dow Jones industrial average <.DJI> ended 1.56 percent lower at 15,766.74 points.

After a brief late-day rally into positive territory, the Nasdaq Composite <.IXIC> lost steam and ended down 0.12 percent at 4,471.69.

The CBOE volatility index <.VIX>, Wall Street's fear gauge, jumped 5.9 percent to 27.59.

Strength last year in Netflix, Facebook and a handful of other technology stocks masked troubled sentiment in other S&P 500 components, said R Squared portfolio manager Riad Younes.

"You had a crowded trade on a few names that kept the average much higher than it should be," Younes said. "It feels like a bear market for the average stock."

IBM <IBM.N> weighed the most on the Dow, falling 4.88 percent after disappointing earnings report.

Netflix <NFLX.O> ended down 0.14 percent despite better-than-expected growth in its subscriber base.

An unusually high 12.5 billion shares changed hands on U.S. exchanges, well above the 7.8 billion daily average for the past 20 trading days, according to Thomson Reuters data.

The New York Stock Exchange recorded 2,271 stocks advancing stocks and 883 decliners. On the Nasdaq, 1,551 issues fell and 1,331 advanced.

The S&P 500 posted no new 52-week highs and 182 new lows; the Nasdaq recorded 5 new highs and 728 new lows.

(Additional reporting by Abhiram Nandakumar; Editing by Jeffrey Benkoe and Nick Zieminski)

Scenes from the first day of trading of 2016:

20 PHOTOS
First day of the Stock Market 2016
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Wall St tumbles to 2014 low as oil prices sink
NEW YORK, NY - JANUARY 04: Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange during the afternoon of January 4, 2016 in New York City. Today marks the first day of trading for the New York Stock Exchange; the market dove over 350 points upon opening and closed more than 275 points down. (Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - JANUARY 04: A trader works on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange during the afternoon of January 4, 2016 in New York City. Today marks the first day of trading for the New York Stock Exchange; the market dove over 350 points upon opening and closed more than 275 points down. (Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - JANUARY 04: A screen displays the current status of the New York Stock Exchange during the afternoon of January 4, 2016 in New York City. Today marks the first day of trading for the New York Stock Exchange; the market dove over 350 points upon opening and closed more than 275 points down. (Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - JANUARY 04: Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange during the afternoon of January 4, 2016 in New York City. Today marks the first day of trading for the New York Stock Exchange; the market dove over 350 points upon opening and closed more than 275 points down. (Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - JANUARY 04: Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange during the afternoon of January 4, 2016 in New York City. Today marks the first day of trading for the New York Stock Exchange; the market dove over 350 points upon opening and closed more than 275 points down. (Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - JANUARY 04: A trader works on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange during the afternoon of January 4, 2016 in New York City. Today marks the first day of trading for the New York Stock Exchange; the market dove over 350 points upon opening and closed more than 275 points down. (Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - JANUARY 04: Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange during the afternoon of January 4, 2016 in New York City. Today marks the first day of trading for the New York Stock Exchange; the market dove over 350 points upon opening and closed more than 275 points down. (Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - JANUARY 04: A trader works on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange during the afternoon of January 4, 2016 in New York City. Today marks the first day of trading for the New York Stock Exchange; the market dove over 350 points upon opening and closed more than 275 points down. (Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - JANUARY 04: A trader works on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange during the afternoon of January 4, 2016 in New York City. Today marks the first day of trading for the New York Stock Exchange; the market dove over 350 points upon opening and closed more than 275 points down. (Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - JANUARY 04: A trader works on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange during the afternoon of January 4, 2016 in New York City. Today marks the first day of trading for the New York Stock Exchange; the market dove over 350 points upon opening and closed more than 275 points down. (Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images)
A trader bows his head while working on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in New York, U.S., on Monday, Jan. 4, 2016. U.S. stocks tumbled to start 2016, falling to their lowest levels since mid-October, as a rout in Chinese equities renewed concern that an economic slowdown there will damp global growth. Photographer: Michael Nagle/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in New York, U.S., on Monday, Jan. 4, 2016. U.S. stocks tumbled to start 2016, falling to their lowest levels since mid-October, as a rout in Chinese equities renewed concern that an economic slowdown there will damp global growth. Photographer: Michael Nagle/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in New York, U.S., on Monday, Jan. 4, 2016. U.S. stocks tumbled to start 2016, falling to their lowest levels since mid-October, as a rout in Chinese equities renewed concern that an economic slowdown there will damp global growth. Photographer: Michael Nagle/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in New York, U.S., on Monday, Jan. 4, 2016. U.S. stocks tumbled to start 2016, falling to their lowest levels since mid-October, as a rout in Chinese equities renewed concern that an economic slowdown there will damp global growth. Photographer: Michael Nagle/Bloomberg via Getty Images
NEW YORK, NY - JANUARY 04: Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange during the morning of January 4, 2016 in New York City. Today marks the first day of trading for the New York Stock Exchange; the market dove over 400 points upon opening. (Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - JANUARY 04: A trader works on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange during the morning of January 4, 2016 in New York City. Today marks the first day of trading for the New York Stock Exchange; the market dove over 400 points upon opening. (Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images)
Trader Tommy Kalikas, center, works on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange, Monday, Jan. 4, 2016. U.S. stocks are opening 2016 on a grim note, dropping sharply after a plunge in China and declines in Europe. (AP Photo/Richard Drew)
Trader Gerard Farco works on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange, Monday, Jan. 4, 2016. U.S. stocks are opening 2016 on a grim note, dropping sharply after a plunge in China and declines in Europe. (AP Photo/Richard Drew)
Trader Mario Innella works on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange, Monday, Jan. 4, 2016. U.S. stocks are opening 2016 on a grim note, dropping sharply after a plunge in China and declines in Europe. (AP Photo/Richard Drew)
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