Stocks decline on worries about China and Greece

U.S. stocks fell sharply on Wednesday, a session marred by technical trouble that derailed operations at the New York Stock Exchange for hours, as a rout in Chinese equities heightened concerns about the global economy.

Investors' nerves were frayed by the economic crisis in Greek, declining prices for commodities and Chinese equities, said Paul Nolte, senior vice president and portfolio manager at Kingsview Asset Management.

China tries to stem plunging stock prices

"Whether it's China in the East or Greece in Europe, those are the two big concerns. China collapsing would have a major impact on global trade," said Nolte, who likened the scenario to the U.S. market crash in 2000 after the tech bubble burst. The Chinese market "ran up hugely on speculation, so so you had every farmer involved in the market. We could see the Chinese economy slowing further."

Alcoa (AA) fell just over 5 percent ahead of the aluminum producer's earnings report after the market close.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average (dji) shed 261 points, or 1.5 percent, to 17,515.

The S&P 500 (spx) declined 35 points, or 1.7 percent, to 2,047.

The Nasdaq Composite (comp) dropped 88 points, or 1.8 percent to 4,910.

Minutes from the Federal Reserve's last policy gathering had central bankers in June viewing the economy as heading towards conditions that would warrant a hike in interest rates, but that optimism was tempered by concern about global events and soft consumer spending.