Disappointing quarterly results and outlooks are stoking investors' jitters over future growth in corporate profits.
Some encouraging economic news helped stabilise markets.
"We are having another risk-off sentiment day", said Massud Ghasssy, senior analyst at Nasdaq IR Intelligence, in New York City. Recent data showing the housing market is slowing have also fueled speculation that US economic growth will start to slow next year. Analysts attributed Wednesday's sell-off to fears of economic weakness around the globe that could reduce demand for the products and services from US companies.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average climbed 344 points, or 1.4 percent, to 24,928.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average .DJI rose 401.13 points, or 1.63 percent, to 24,984.55, the S&P 500 .SPX gained 49.47 points, or 1.86 percent, to 2,705.57 and the Nasdaq Composite .IXIC added 209.94 points, or 2.95 percent, to 7,318.34.
Another loss Thursday will likely push the index into what Wall Street calls a "correction" - a drop of 10 percent or more from the latest high.
The S&P 500 lost 46 points, or 1.7 percent, to 2,658. The Chinese yuan fell to 6.9641 against the greenback, flirting with its weakest point in almost a decade.
At one point, the Dow was down 548 points.
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Ford Motor, which is struggling with sales in China, surged 7.4 percent as its earnings report raised hopes for a strong finish to the year, while Raytheon was up 1.2 percent after the United States defence contractor raised its full-year forecast. The last S&P 500 correction happened in February. That stretch included a couple of big rallies, but the losses erased the benchmark index's gains from earlier in the year. The Dow Jones lost nearly 300 points (about 296 points) or around 1.19% to end the day with the bear dogging their heels.
Tech will be tested again later on Thursday: Alphabet, Amazon (AMZN), Snap (SNAP) and Intel (INTC) all will post their quarterly financial report after the bell. She expects that to change when the dust settles.
Adding to concerns, China reported last week that economic growth fell to the lowest level in a decade in the third quarter. But huge companies like Microsoft have slumped this month.
Investors had been looking for strong corporate earnings to drag stocks out of the doldrums, but earnings have disappointed this quarter. Netflix lost 8.4 percent to $305.19.
"Chief among them is a Fed that seems determined to continue steady rate increases despite growing signs of weakening global growth as China struggles to stabilize its economy and markets all while USA trade tariffs loom", Young said. Its 4.4 per cent tumble on Wednesday to 7,108.40 was its biggest drop since August 2011 but it is still up 3 per cent for the year. It's fallen 13.8 percent since the end of August and is down 2.3 percent so far this year. The British FTSE 100 rose 0.6 percent, although WPP, the world's largest advertising company, said its business slowed in the third quarter and warned about weaker annual earnings.
Elsewhere in Asia, South Korea's stock exchange fell 2 percent. The Russell 2000 index of smaller-company stocks gave up 19 points, or 1.3 percent, to 1,480.
McDonald's rose 6.1 percent after it beat estimates for quarterly same-store sales on strong demand in global markets, while Verizon rallied to an 18-1/2-year high after beating estimates for profit and net new phone subscribers. Japanese telecom and energy giant Softbank lost 4.4 per cent.
While U.S. economic growth kept apace despite trade wars, the same can not be said of U.S. corporate profit growth, as a slew of disappointing forecasts this earnings season showed how tariffs, rising wages and borrowing costs as well as jitters over geopolitical events are hurting companies. Between late June and early October, the market didn't rise or fall as much as 1 percent in a single day.
Benchmark U.S. crude edged up 0.6 percent to settle at $66.82 a barrel in NY. Brent crude, used to price worldwide oils, declined 56 cents to Dollars 75.61 a barrel.