Wall Street sell-offs continued on Wednesday before the Thanksgiving Holiday, as investors apparently found no reason to buy in the market amid a batch of tepid economic data and European woes.
The Dow Jones industrial average tumbled 236.17 points, or 2.05 percent, to 11,257.55, the fifth decline in the last six sessions.
The Standard & Poor's 500 plunged 26.25 points, or 2.21 percent, to 1,161.79. The Nasdaq Composite Index plummeted 61.20 points, or 2.43 percent, to 2,460.08, the sixes straight losses for both indexes.
For the six-day period, the blue-chip Dow fell more than 6 percent. The broader S&P 500 lost about 7 percent and the tech- heavy Nasdaq dropped about 8 percent.
Concerns over the European debt crisis heightened on Wednesday after the latest bond auction in Germany met poor demand. Investors worried the debt problems will finally affect the region' s economic powerhouse.
Meanwhile, both domestic and overseas data signaled a troubled recovery, adding concerns for a global economic slowdown.
The Labor Department said before the opening bell that applications for initial jobless benefits increased 2,000 in the week ended Nov. 19 to 393,000, higher than market expectation.
The four-week moving average, a less-volatile measure than the weekly figures, dropped to 394,250, the lowest level since April, from 397,500.
Meanwhile, the Commerce Department said consumer spending barely changed as personal income jumped the most in seven months, indicating the biggest part of the economy may contribute less to the recovery.
The Thomson Reuters/University of Michigan final index of consumer sentiment rose to 64.1 in November, which was the highest since June but still lower than the median estimate.
What's more, weaker-than-expected manufacturing reports from China and Germany added to the cautiousness in the market.
Data showed China's manufacturing sector shrank the most in 32 months in November, intensifying concerns about a global economic slowdown. In the same period, the German PMI Manufacturing index decreased for the second consecutive month to 47.9 points, lower than market projections.
In other markets, the U.S. dollar rose against major currencies in late New York trading while crude prices fell 1.84 dollars, or 1.88 percent, to settle at 96.17 dollars a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.
All U.S. financial markets will be closed on Thursday due to the Thanksgiving Holiday, and will end earlier on the following Black Friday.