The Dow Jones industrial average closed above 13,000 points Feb. 28 for the first time since May 2008. Some investors were concerned the rally had little behind it. Tuesday's drop gave credence to that argument.
Stock equity markets in Asia and Europe lower economic growth shrank in the eurozone in the fourth quarter.
Eurostat, the statistical department of the European Commission, said the gross domestic product for the 17-member region that shares the euro as currency fell 0.3 percent October through December.
For the year, the economy grew 0.7 percent for the region. While better than expected, the figures, overall, indicate a double-dip recession in Europe is likely.
On Monday, China's Premier Wen Jiabao said the government had lowered its expectations for economic growth for 2012 to 7.5 percent from 8 percent. If that occurs it would be China's slowest growth rate in 22 years.
By close of trading on Wall Street, the DJIA gave up 203.66 points or 1.57 percent to 12,759.15. The Standard & Poor's 500 index lost 20.97 points or 1.54 percent to 1,343.36. The tech-heavy Nasdaq composite index shed 40.16 points or 1.36 percent to 2,910.32.
On the New York Stock Exchange, 269 stocks advanced and 2,804 declined on a volume of 4 billion shares traded.
The benchmark 10-year treasury note gained 20/32 to yield 1.95 percent.
The euro fell to $1.3117 from Monday's $1.3217. Against the yen, the dollar fell to 80.88 yen from 81.56 yen.
In Tokyo, the Nikkei 225 index lost 0.63 percent, 60.96 points, to 9,637.63.
In London, the FTSE 100 index shed 1.86 percent, 109.02, to 5,765.80.