As a result, investors sold U.S. shares, bring the Dow Jones Industrial Average down 93.46 points, or 1.1 percent, to 8,459.50.
Dupont led the index down, off 5 3/8 to 55 1/8 after warning analysts it expects third-quarter earnings to be at the low end of Wall Street estimates.
"Over the last few weeks, the speed at which the market accelerated off the top is one of the quickest and largest declines we've ever seen," said Jeff Cooper, head of Cooper Trading. "And an acceleration off the top tells you something. At the same time, I still see a lot of complacency. I hear everybody ask 'when do I buy?'
"But the bottom line is that there continues to be selling into market strength, which is occurring as institutional investors distribute stock," Cooper observed. "And I don't see any follow-through day higher in the major averages yet."
"We're still in a bull market, but psychology has changed almost 180 degrees," said Frank Cappiello, president of McCullough Andrews & Cappiello and chairman of Cappiello Funds. "As for the short-term, we don't have anything in the next three to four weeks that could push the market up."
Overseas, Russia's main stock index was shuttered 40 minutes into trading after it fell more than 10 percent, only to reopen 35 minutes later. The index has collapsed about 80 percent since the beginning of the year.
Late Wednesday, Russia's central bank ordered Russian commercial banks to cease trading currencies for their own purposes. The action served to escalate the ominous atmosphere surrounding the Russian financial system.
In Japan, the benchmark Nikkei 225 index dipped 0.1 percent.
Meanwhile, Hong Kong's Hang Seng index lost 2.9 percent as investors fretted over the possibility of Hong Kong de-linking its dollar from the U.S. dollar.
Elsewhere in Asia, Malaysia's main stock index swooned 4.5 percent and Singapore's main equity average skidded 3.0 percent.