Stocks fell amid concern that President Bush will attack Iraq without the United Nations' support, eroding consumer confidence and crimping corporate profit growth. The Dow Jones industrial average had its lowest close in almost five months.
The Dow declined 132.99, or 1.7 percent, to 7704.87, its lowest close since Oct. 10. The Nasdaq composite index fell 12.52, or 1 percent, to 1307.77.
The Standard & Poor's 500-stock index shed 12.82, or 1.5 percent, to 821.99, as all 10 of its broad economic groups dropped.
Stocks were also hurt by explosions in the Philippines that the country's president called "an act of terrorism" and rising tensions between the United States and North Korea.
General Motors fell $1.89, or 5.7 percent, to $31.27, and Ford dropped 33 cents, or 4.1 percent, to $7.74. Deutsche Bank analyst Rod Lache said the largest three U.S. automakers may lose more market share to Asian competitors. He cut his recommendation on General Motors and Ford to "sell" from "hold." U.S. automakers' sales fell in February for the second straight month, led by GM, whose sales declined 19 percent as the heaviest Northeast snowfalls in seven years kept shoppers out of showrooms.
DaimlerChrysler, the world's fifth-biggest automaker, slipped $1.25, to $29.28.
Walt Disney slumped 75 cents, to $16.05. Attendance at the Walt Disney World theme park in Florida suffered after Bush's State of the Union address last month and the raising of the national terror alert status, chief executive Michael D. Eisner told Bloomberg Television. BJ's Wholesale Club, the third-largest U.S. operator of warehouse clubs, tumbled $3.26, or 24 percent, to $10.34. The company cut its fiscal 2004 profit forecast as it lowers prices to match competitors and attract customers. BJ's expects to earn $1.25 to $1.35 a share, missing the $1.72-a-share average estimate of analysts surveyed by Thomson First Call.
Costco Wholesale, the largest U.S. chain of warehouse clubs, fell $1.23, to $29.30.
Home building had the biggest drop among the S&P 500's 123 industry groups after Lennar, the largest U.S. builder, reported slowing order growth. Lennar dropped $3.91, to $50.55; Pulte Homes, the No. 3 home builder, dropped $3.90, to $46.80; and Centex, the No. 2 builder, shed $3.82, to $51.68.
* The New York Stock Exchange composite index fell 71.33, to 4638.05; the American Stock Exchange index rose 0.03, to 829.74; and the Russell 2000 index of smaller-company stocks fell 2.80, to 356.51.
* Declining issues outnumbered advancing ones by 9 to 5 on the NYSE, where trading volume rose to 1.2 billion shares, from 1.17 billion on Monday. On the Nasdaq Stock Market, decliners outnumbered advancers by 5 to 3 and volume totaled 1.19 billion, down from 1.22 billion.
* The price of the Treasury's 10-year note rose $2.50 per $1,000 invested, and its yield, which moves in the opposite direction, fell to 3.65 percent, from 3.67 percent on Monday.
* The dollar rose against the Japanese yen and the euro. In late New York trading, a dollar bought 117.91 yen, up from 117.59 late Monday, and a euro bought $1.0882, down from $1.0888.
* Light, sweet crude oil for April delivery settled at $36.89, up $1.01, on the New York Mercantile Exchange.
* Gold for current delivery rose to $353.20 a troy ounce, from $349.20 on Monday, on the New York Mercantile Exchange's Commodity Exchange.