Stocks extended their losses in the final hour of trading to close near lows Thursday, after Fitch took negative action on Greece's ratings and following several disappointing economic reports.
The CBOE Volatility Index, widely considered the best gauge of fear in the market, surged almost 10 percent to close above 24, hitting a five-month high.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average tumbled 156.06 points, or 1.24 percent, to close at 12,442.49, led by JPMorgan and Caterpillar , logging its 11th down day in the last 12 sessions.
Wal-Mart was the biggest gainer on the index.
The S&P 500 slumped 19.94 points, or 1.51 percent, to end at 1,304.86. Nasdaq plunged 60.35 points, or 2.10 percent, to finish at 2,813.69.
Most key S&P sectors ended in negative territory, led by consumerdiscretionary, while telecoms edged higher.
Fitch downgraded Greece by one notch to CCC from B- amid "heightened risk" that the debt-ridden nation may be forced to exit the euro zone. This comes after ECB said it had ceased providing liquidity to some Greek banks due to their failure to recapitalize.Page 1 of 4 | Next Page