Just two trading sessions after the Dow Jones industrial average and the Standard and Poor's 500 closed at all-time highs, the indexes took a sudden dive. The DJIA gave up 265.86 points, or 1.79 percent, to 14,599.20, the sharpest one-day drop since November. The S&P 500 gave up 2.3 percent, or 36.49 points, to 1,552.36. The tech-oriented Nasdaq composite shed 2.38 percent, 78.46 points, to 3,216.49.
On the New York Stock Exchange, 383 stocks advanced and 2,709 declined on a volume of 4.6 billion shares traded.
The selloff started in Asia. The Shanghai composite index in China lost 1.13 percent after the government said the gross domestic product rose 7.7 percent in the first quarter following 7.9 percent growth in the fourth quarter of 2012.
The slower growth figure surprised analysts. The consensus forecast called for 8 percent growth from January through March.
Markets were down in Japan, Australia and Hong Kong and across Europe.
Commodities generally take a back seat to equities. If the economy looks strong, commodity prices rise. If it looks week, commodity prices fall.
But commodities took an influential position Monday. Gold dropped almost 9 percent after falling more than 4 percent Friday. The drop of more than $230 set a two-day record for the Comex division of the New York Mercantile Exchange. Gold is considered a safe haven but its plunge made investors nervous Monday.
Gold, which lost $79 Friday, fell an additional $153.60 Monday to $1,346.40 per troy ounce.
Investors backed away from oil, as well. NYMEX West Texas Intermediate crude oil lost $3.63 and settled at $87.66 per barrel.
The 10-year U.S. treasury note rose 12/32 to yield 1.688 percent.
Against the dollar, the euro was lower at $1.304 from Friday's $1.3115. Against the yen, the dollar fell to 96.73 yen from 98.25 yen.
The dollar index, a prorated measure of the dollar against six major currencies, rose 0.29 percent to 82.37 on the International Exchange.
In Tokyo, the Nikkei 225 index shed 1.55 percent, or 209.48 points, to 13,275.66. In London, the FTSE 100 index dropped 0.64 percent, 40.79 points, to 6,343.60.
On the Chicago Board of Trade, corn for May delivery lost 12.75 cents to $6.4575 per bushel. May soybeans dropped 18 cents to $13.95 and wheat shed 21 cents to $6.9375.