Investors are uneasy about oil prices, which on Wednesday traded as high as $138.30 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange before settling up $5.07 at $136.38. Having breached $139 a barrel last week, record-high crude has increasingly posed both an inflationary risk and a threat to growth.
Energy Department data Wednesday showed that gasoline supplies grew last week but that crude oil inventories fell more than analysts expected. The weekly report suggested no letup in U.S. energy demand, even as consumers adjust their budgets to accommodate gasoline that averages more than $4 a gallon nationally.
According to preliminary calculations, the Dow fell 205.99, or 1.68 percent, to 12,083.77.
Broader stock indicators also declined. The Standard & Poor's 500 index fell 22.95, or 1.69 percent, to 1,335.49, and the Nasdaq composite index fell 54.93, or 2.24 percent, to 2,394.01.