Wall Street suffers worst week in a decade as economic worries mount

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Wall Street stocks fell in volatile trading on Friday, with the Nasdaq confirming it is in a bear market, as concerns of slowing economic growth led investors to flee stocks in high-valuation sectors such as technology and communication services.

The tech-heavy Nasdaq sank to a 15-month low, falling as much as 21.5 percent from its Aug. 29 high. The benchmark S&P 500 index, already on pace for its biggest percentage decline in December since the Great Depression, hit its lowest level since August 2017. The Dow Industrials fell to the lowest level since October 2017.

All three indexes swung between losses and gains of more than 1 percent. They received a momentary boost after New York Fed President John Williams said on CNBC that the Fed is open to reassessing its views and monitoring market signals that economic growth could fall short of expectations.

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Scenes from Wall Street's worst week in a decade
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Scenes from Wall Street's worst week in a decade
NEW YORK, NEW YORK - DECEMBER 21: Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) on December 21, 2018 in New York City. Following another down day and one of the worst trading months in recent history, investors are nervously looking for positive economic and political news to gain back some of the loses. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NEW YORK - DECEMBER 21: Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) on December 21, 2018 in New York City. Following another down day and one of the worst trading months in recent history, investors are nervously looking for positive economic and political news to gain back some of the loses. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NEW YORK - DECEMBER 21: Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) on December 21, 2018 in New York City. Following another down day and one of the worst trading months in recent history, investors are nervously looking for positive economic and political news to gain back some of the loses. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NEW YORK - DECEMBER 21: Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) on December 21, 2018 in New York City. Following another down day and one of the worst trading months in recent history, investors are nervously looking for positive economic and political news to gain back some of the loses. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NEW YORK - DECEMBER 21: Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) on December 21, 2018 in New York City. Following another down day and one of the worst trading months in recent history, investors are nervously looking for positive economic and political news to gain back some of the loses. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NEW YORK - DECEMBER 21: Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) on December 21, 2018 in New York City. Following another down day and one of the worst trading months in recent history, investors are nervously looking for positive economic and political news to gain back some of the loses. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NEW YORK - DECEMBER 21: Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) on December 21, 2018 in New York City. Following another down day and one of the worst trading months in recent history, investors are nervously looking for positive economic and political news to gain back some of the loses. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - DECEMBER 20: Traders and financial professionals work ahead of the closing bell on the floor to he New York Stock Exchange (NYSE), December 20, 2018 in New York City. The Dow Jones industrial average continued its tumultuous week, closing down over 460 points on Thursday, one day after the Federal Reserve raised the interest rate. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, Dec. 20, 2018 -- A trader works at the New York Stock Exchange in New York, the United States, Dec. 20, 2018. U.S. stocks closed lower on Thursday as investors digested the central bank's latest rate hike decision. The Dow Jones Industrial Average was down 464.06 points, or 1.99 percent, to 22,859.60. The S&P 500 fell 39.54 points, or 1.58 percent, to 2,467.42. The Nasdaq Composite Index fell 108.42 points, or 1.63 percent, to 6,528.41. (Xinhua/Wang Ying) (Xinhua/Wang Ying via Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - DECEMBER 20: Traders and financial professionals work ahead of the closing bell on the floor to he New York Stock Exchange (NYSE), December 20, 2018 in New York City. The Dow Jones industrial average continued its tumultuous week, closing down over 460 points on Thursday, one day after the Federal Reserve raised the interest rate. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - DECEMBER 20: President Donald Trump is displayed on a screen on the floor to he New York Stock Exchange (NYSE), December 20, 2018 in New York City. The Dow Jones industrial average continued its tumultuous week, closing down over 460 points on Thursday, one day after the Federal Reserve raised the interest rate. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - DECEMBER 20: President Donald Trump is displayed on a monitor as a trader works at his desk ahead of the closing bell on the floor to he New York Stock Exchange (NYSE), December 20, 2018 in New York City. The Dow Jones industrial average continued its tumultuous week, closing down over 460 points on Thursday, one day after the Federal Reserve raised the interest rate. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - DECEMBER 20: A monitor displays the days' final numbers on the floor to he New York Stock Exchange (NYSE), December 20, 2018 in New York City. The Dow Jones industrial average continued its tumultuous week, closing down over 460 points on Thursday, one day after the Federal Reserve raised the interest rate. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - DECEMBER 20: President Donald Trump is displayed on a monitor as a trader works at his desk ahead of the closing bell on the floor to he New York Stock Exchange (NYSE), December 20, 2018 in New York City. The Dow Jones industrial average continued its tumultuous week, closing down over 460 points on Thursday, one day after the Federal Reserve raised the interest rate. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - DECEMBER 20: Traders and financial professionals work ahead of the closing bell on the floor to he New York Stock Exchange (NYSE), December 20, 2018 in New York City. The Dow Jones industrial average continued its tumultuous week, closing down over 460 points on Thursday, one day after the Federal Reserve raised the interest rate. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - DECEMBER 20: Traders and financial professionals work ahead of the closing bell on the floor to he New York Stock Exchange (NYSE), December 20, 2018 in New York City. The Dow Jones industrial average continued its tumultuous week, closing down over 460 points on Thursday, one day after the Federal Reserve raised the interest rate. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - DECEMBER 20: A trader works at his desk ahead of the closing bell on the floor to he New York Stock Exchange (NYSE), December 20, 2018 in New York City. The Dow Jones industrial average continued its tumultuous week, closing down over 460 points on Thursday, one day after the Federal Reserve raised the interest rate. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - DECEMBER 20: A monitor displays the days' final numbers on the floor to he New York Stock Exchange (NYSE), December 20, 2018 in New York City. The Dow Jones industrial average continued its tumultuous week, closing down over 460 points on Thursday, one day after the Federal Reserve raised the interest rate. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
Traders with Livermore Securities at the New York Stock Exchange follow the news from the Federal Reserve Board of a rate increase, Wednesday, Dec. 19, 2018. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)
Traders at the New York Stock Exchange listen as Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell is seen on a video screen giving a news conference from Washington after the Fed announced a rate increase, Wednesday, Dec. 19, 2018. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)
Stock traders work at the New York Stock Exchange, Wednesday, Dec. 19, 2018. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)
A monitor displays stock market information on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in New York, U.S., on Wednesday, Dec. 19, 2018. U.S. stocks careened to a 15-month low after Jerome Powell failed to quell investor angst that the Federal Reserve's tightening policy will throttle economic growth. Photographer: Michael Nagle/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Traders work on the floor at the closing bell of the Dow Industrial Average at the New York Stock Exchange on December 19, 2018 in New York. - Wll Street stocks tumbled Wednesday, December 19, 2018 after the Federal Reserve lifted interest rates while pledging a cautious approach to additional interest rate hikes next year. At the closing bell, the Dow Jones Industrial Average was down 1.5 percent, about 350 points, at 23,324.10. The broad-based S&P dropped 1.5 percent to 2,506.87, while the tech-rich Nasdaq Composite Index sank 2.2 percent to 6,635.48. Major indices had been up about one percent prior to the Fed announcement. (Photo by Bryan R. Smith / AFP) (Photo credit should read BRYAN R. SMITH/AFP/Getty Images)
A television broadcasts Jerome Powell, chairman of the U.S. Federal Reserve, announcing an increase in the Federal Reserve interest rate as a trader works on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in New York, U.S., on Wednesday, Dec. 19, 2018. U.S. stocks careened to a 15-month low after Jerome Powell failed to quell investor angst that the Federal Reserve's tightening policy will throttle economic growth. Photographer: Michael Nagle/Bloomberg via Getty Images
The closing numbers are displayed after the closing bell of the Dow Industrial Average at the New York Stock Exchange on December 19, 2018 in New York. - Wll Street stocks tumbled Wednesday, December 19, 2018 after the Federal Reserve lifted interest rates while pledging a cautious approach to additional interest rate hikes next year. At the closing bell, the Dow Jones Industrial Average was down 1.5 percent, about 350 points, at 23,324.10. The broad-based S&P dropped 1.5 percent to 2,506.87, while the tech-rich Nasdaq Composite Index sank 2.2 percent to 6,635.48. Major indices had been up about one percent prior to the Fed announcement. (Photo by Bryan R. Smith / AFP) (Photo credit should read BRYAN R. SMITH/AFP/Getty Images)
Traders work on the floor at the closing bell of the Dow Industrial Average at the New York Stock Exchange on December 19, 2018 in New York. - Wll Street stocks tumbled Wednesday, December 19, 2018 after the Federal Reserve lifted interest rates while pledging a cautious approach to additional interest rate hikes next year. At the closing bell, the Dow Jones Industrial Average was down 1.5 percent, about 350 points, at 23,324.10. The broad-based S&P dropped 1.5 percent to 2,506.87, while the tech-rich Nasdaq Composite Index sank 2.2 percent to 6,635.48. Major indices had been up about one percent prior to the Fed announcement. (Photo by Bryan R. Smith / AFP) (Photo credit should read BRYAN R. SMITH/AFP/Getty Images)
Traders work on the floor at the closing bell of the Dow Industrial Average at the New York Stock Exchange on December 19, 2018 in New York. - Wll Street stocks tumbled Wednesday, December 19, 2018 after the Federal Reserve lifted interest rates while pledging a cautious approach to additional interest rate hikes next year. At the closing bell, the Dow Jones Industrial Average was down 1.5 percent, about 350 points, at 23,324.10. The broad-based S&P dropped 1.5 percent to 2,506.87, while the tech-rich Nasdaq Composite Index sank 2.2 percent to 6,635.48. Major indices had been up about one percent prior to the Fed announcement. (Photo by Bryan R. Smith / AFP) (Photo credit should read BRYAN R. SMITH/AFP/Getty Images)
Traders work on the floor at the closing bell of the Dow Industrial Average at the New York Stock Exchange on December 19, 2018 in New York. - Wll Street stocks tumbled Wednesday, December 19, 2018 after the Federal Reserve lifted interest rates while pledging a cautious approach to additional interest rate hikes next year. At the closing bell, the Dow Jones Industrial Average was down 1.5 percent, about 350 points, at 23,324.10. The broad-based S&P dropped 1.5 percent to 2,506.87, while the tech-rich Nasdaq Composite Index sank 2.2 percent to 6,635.48. Major indices had been up about one percent prior to the Fed announcement. (Photo by Bryan R. Smith / AFP) (Photo credit should read BRYAN R. SMITH/AFP/Getty Images)
Traders work on the floor at the closing bell of the Dow Industrial Average at the New York Stock Exchange on December 19, 2018 in New York. - Wll Street stocks tumbled Wednesday, December 19, 2018 after the Federal Reserve lifted interest rates while pledging a cautious approach to additional interest rate hikes next year. At the closing bell, the Dow Jones Industrial Average was down 1.5 percent, about 350 points, at 23,324.10. The broad-based S&P dropped 1.5 percent to 2,506.87, while the tech-rich Nasdaq Composite Index sank 2.2 percent to 6,635.48. Major indices had been up about one percent prior to the Fed announcement. (Photo by Bryan R. Smith / AFP) (Photo credit should read BRYAN R. SMITH/AFP/Getty Images)
Traders work on the floor at the closing bell of the Dow Industrial Average at the New York Stock Exchange on December 19, 2018 in New York. - Wll Street stocks tumbled Wednesday, December 19, 2018 after the Federal Reserve lifted interest rates while pledging a cautious approach to additional interest rate hikes next year. At the closing bell, the Dow Jones Industrial Average was down 1.5 percent, about 350 points, at 23,324.10. The broad-based S&P dropped 1.5 percent to 2,506.87, while the tech-rich Nasdaq Composite Index sank 2.2 percent to 6,635.48. Major indices had been up about one percent prior to the Fed announcement. (Photo by Bryan R. Smith / AFP) (Photo credit should read BRYAN R. SMITH/AFP/Getty Images)
Traders work on the floor at the closing bell of the Dow Industrial Average at the New York Stock Exchange on December 19, 2018 in New York. - Wll Street stocks tumbled Wednesday, December 19, 2018 after the Federal Reserve lifted interest rates while pledging a cautious approach to additional interest rate hikes next year. At the closing bell, the Dow Jones Industrial Average was down 1.5 percent, about 350 points, at 23,324.10. The broad-based S&P dropped 1.5 percent to 2,506.87, while the tech-rich Nasdaq Composite Index sank 2.2 percent to 6,635.48. Major indices had been up about one percent prior to the Fed announcement. (Photo by Bryan R. Smith / AFP) (Photo credit should read BRYAN R. SMITH/AFP/Getty Images)
Traders work on the floor at the closing bell of the Dow Industrial Average at the New York Stock Exchange on December 19, 2018 in New York. - Wll Street stocks tumbled Wednesday, December 19, 2018 after the Federal Reserve lifted interest rates while pledging a cautious approach to additional interest rate hikes next year. At the closing bell, the Dow Jones Industrial Average was down 1.5 percent, about 350 points, at 23,324.10. The broad-based S&P dropped 1.5 percent to 2,506.87, while the tech-rich Nasdaq Composite Index sank 2.2 percent to 6,635.48. Major indices had been up about one percent prior to the Fed announcement. (Photo by Bryan R. Smith / AFP) (Photo credit should read BRYAN R. SMITH/AFP/Getty Images)
Traders work on the floor at the closing bell of the Dow Industrial Average at the New York Stock Exchange on December 19, 2018 in New York. - Wll Street stocks tumbled Wednesday, December 19, 2018 after the Federal Reserve lifted interest rates while pledging a cautious approach to additional interest rate hikes next year. At the closing bell, the Dow Jones Industrial Average was down 1.5 percent, about 350 points, at 23,324.10. The broad-based S&P dropped 1.5 percent to 2,506.87, while the tech-rich Nasdaq Composite Index sank 2.2 percent to 6,635.48. Major indices had been up about one percent prior to the Fed announcement. (Photo by Bryan R. Smith / AFP) (Photo credit should read BRYAN R. SMITH/AFP/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NEW YORK - DECEMBER 19: Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) after the Federal Reserve Board Chairman Jerome Powell held a news conference on December 19, 2018 in New York City. U.S. stocks fell on Wednesday after the Federal Reserve raised interest rates for the fourth time in 2018. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NEW YORK - DECEMBER 19: Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) after the Federal Reserve Board Chairman Jerome Powell held a news conference on December 19, 2018 in New York City. U.S. stocks fell on Wednesday after the Federal Reserve raised interest rates for the fourth time in 2018. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
A television broadcasts Jerome Powell, chairman of the U.S. Federal Reserve, announcing an increase in the Federal Reserve interest rate on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in New York, U.S., on Wednesday, Dec. 19, 2018. U.S. stocks careened to a 15-month low after Jerome Powell failed to quell investor angst that the Federal Reserve's tightening policy will throttle economic 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 Wednesday, Dec. 19, 2018. U.S. stocks careened to a 15-month low after Jerome Powell failed to quell investor angst that the Federal Reserve's tightening policy will throttle economic growth. Photographer: Michael Nagle/Bloomberg via Getty Images
A monitor displays stock market information on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in New York, U.S., on Wednesday, Dec. 19, 2018. U.S. stocks careened to a 15-month low after Jerome Powell failed to quell investor angst that the Federal Reserve's tightening policy will throttle economic growth. Photographer: Michael Nagle/Bloomberg via Getty Images
A monitor displays an S&P 500 chart on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in New York, U.S., on Wednesday, Dec. 19, 2018. U.S. stocks careened to a 15-month low after Jerome Powell failed to quell investor angst that the Federal Reserve's tightening policy will throttle economic growth. Photographer: Michael Nagle/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Traders watch a television broadcasting Jerome Powell, chairman of the U.S. Federal Reserve, announcing an increase in the Federal Reserve interest rate on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in New York, U.S., on Wednesday, Dec. 19, 2018. U.S. stocks careened to a 15-month low after Jerome Powell failed to quell investor angst that the Federal Reserve's tightening policy will throttle economic 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 Wednesday, Dec. 19, 2018. U.S. stocks careened to a 15-month low after Jerome Powell failed to quell investor angst that the Federal Reserve's tightening policy will throttle economic growth. Photographer: Michael Nagle/Bloomberg via Getty Images
A trader works on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in New York, U.S., on Wednesday, Dec. 19, 2018. U.S. stocks careened to a 15-month low after Jerome Powell failed to quell investor angst that the Federal Reserve's tightening policy will throttle economic growth. Photographer: Michael Nagle/Bloomberg via Getty Images
A trader works on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in New York, U.S., on Wednesday, Dec. 19, 2018. U.S. stocks careened to a 15-month low after Jerome Powell failed to quell investor angst that the Federal Reserve's tightening policy will throttle economic growth. Photographer: Michael Nagle/Bloomberg via Getty Images
A trader works on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in New York, U.S., on Wednesday, Dec. 19, 2018. U.S. stocks careened to a 15-month low after Jerome Powell failed to quell investor angst that the Federal Reserve's tightening policy will throttle economic growth. Photographer: Michael Nagle/Bloomberg via Getty Images
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But those gains soon evaporated as economic worries again prevailed. Williams' dovish comments could point to hidden concerns among some Fed policymakers, said Tim Ghriskey, investment strategist at Inverness Counsel in New York.

"(Williams' comments) helped the markets for a while early on, and then it was just a sell-off after that," Ghriskey said. "Part of that is when the Fed says something like they're re-looking at things, there's a concern that maybe the Fed knows something that we don't know."

Technology <.SPLRCT> and communication services <.SPLRCL> stocks bore the brunt of the sell-off, falling 2.3 percent and 2.7 percent, respectively.

The FAANG group of momentum stocks fared poorly. Facebook Inc <FB.O> shares tumbled 5.4 percent, Amazon.com Inc shares slid 4.8 percent and Netflix Inc <NFLX.O> shares sank 5.0 percent. Shares of both Apple Inc <AAPL.O> and Google parent Alphabet Inc <GOOGL.O> dropped more than 2 percent.

Turmoil in Washington injected further pessimism into U.S. stock markets. President Donald Trump said there was a very good chance a government funding bill, which included funding for a wall along Mexico border, would not pass the Senate.

"The market continues to react to the possibility of a government shutdown, fear of a domestic and global slowdown and general displeasure about the direction of Fed policy," said Ryan Larson, head of U.S. equity trading at RBC Global Asset Management in Chicago.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average <.DJI> fell 271.91 points, or 1.19 percent, to 22,587.69, the S&P 500 <.SPX> lost 34.61 points, or 1.40 percent, to 2,432.81 and the Nasdaq Composite <.IXIC> dropped 154.57 points, or 2.37 percent, to 6,373.84.

For the second day in a row, more than 2,000 New York Stock Exchange and Nasdaq-listed stocks hit 52-week lows. The day before, nearly 3,000 stocks hit their low for the year, the most in any one day since October 2008.

The three indexes are already in a correction, having fallen more than 10 percent from their record closing highs. The Nasdaq confirmed it is in a bear market, which is marked when an index closes more than 20 percent below its recent closing high.

Adding to volatility was "quadruple-witching," when options on stocks and indexes as well as futures on indexes and stocks expire. Trading volume is often high on "quadruple-witching" days.

Among Wall Street's advancers were shares of Nike Inc <NKE.N>, which jumped 7.5 percent after the company's quarterly results beat Wall Street estimates on strength in North America.

Declining issues outnumbered advancing ones on the NYSE by a 2.48-to-1 ratio; on Nasdaq, a 3.14-to-1 ratio favored decliners.

The S&P 500 posted no new 52-week highs and 115 new lows; the Nasdaq Composite recorded five new highs and 732 new lows.

(Reporting by April Joyner; Additional reporting by Medha Singh in Bengaluru; Editing by Shounak Dasgupta and Nick Zieminski)

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HANG SENG 26,755.63 -146.47 -0.54%
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JPY (per USD) 109.21 0.06 0.05%
GBP (per USD) 1.30 0.00 -0.01%
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