Stocks finished lower for the third straight session, extending the selloff that took hold late last week and culminating in the Nasdaq's biggest three-day drop since August 2011.
The Russell 2000 (-1.5%) and Nasdaq (-1.2%) led the retreat, while the Dow (-1%) and S&P 500 (-1.1%) didn't fare much better.
Traders say today's decline reflected investor positioning ahead of an expected lackluster series of Q1 earnings reports coming up; earnings among companies in the S&P 500 are expected to decline 1.4%, which if true would mark only the second Y/Y drop in earnings since the financial crisis.
Financial stocks were among the biggest decliners, reflecting expectations for an earnings slowdown; blue-chip tech names such as Cisco and IBM were among the biggest gainers, but many of the fast-growing internet, social media and biotech companies that have been hit hard recently extended their losses.
The dollar edged lower vs. the euro and yen, and the 10-year Treasury yield fell 3 bps to 2.695%.