Wall Street’s three-day winning streak is over.
Stocks danced in and out of positive territory for most of the morning, but turned negative later in the day.
According to preliminary calculations, the Dow Jones industrial average fell 179 points, or 1.61 percent, to 11,010.90. The broader S&P 500 sunk 24.30 points, or 2.07 percent, to 1,151.08. The Nasdaq dipped 55.25 points, or 2.17 percent, to 2,491.58.
Why the downward movement? Evidence that there is sharp division among European financial leaders.
"The market gets pumped up on hope, and then it gets the rug pulled out from under it," Keith Springer, president of Springer Financial Advisors, told the Wall Street Journal. "We're all hoping that the European leaders can create a backstop here, but we all know that the backstop is just short term. They're just kicking the can down the road."
The larger global economy – regardless of how the European debt crisis will be solved – still appears weak. Oil prices plunged again Wednesday on expectations that slow growth would weaken demand for raw materials.
One bright spot was Amazon, which saw its shares climbed about 5 percent after the online retailer unveiled the new Kindle Fire tablet, which will battle Apple’s iPad for market share. Barnes & Noble, which own the Nook e-reader, saw its shares fall nearly 15 percent.