US stocks finished lower following a topsy-turvy session amid unease over the effects of low oil prices and a crash in the Russian rouble.
Earlier trade had been buoyed by a rally in energy stocks, and investor beting that plunging oil prices and a more fragile global economy will keep the Federal Reserve from raising rates.
After seeing gains of around 0.5 per cent, the Dow Jones Industrial Average closed 0.7 per cent lower at 17,069 but the blue-chip index climbed as high as 17,427.44 in late morning before tumbling..
The broad-based S&P 500 fell 16.89 (0.85 per cent) to 1,972.74, while the tech-rich Nasdaq Composite Index sank 57.32 (1.24 per cent) to 4,547.83.
However in Europe the news was better with London’s FTSE up 2.41 per cent to 6331.83 and Germany’s DAX up 2.46 per cent on rises in energy stocks.
US oil prices stabilised, with the West Texas Intermediate crude rising 1 per cent a barrel to $US55.93 ($A68.04) but the benchmark European contract fell below $60 a barrel.
Meanwhile, the Russian rouble crashed to extreme lows Tuesday, trading at 80 roubles to the US dollar and 100 to the euro.
Earlier Russian authorities pushed interest rates up to 17 per cent from 10.5 per cent as the markets fretted about risk on Russian debt.
Russia is believed to need an oil price of $US120 a barrel to pay its national debt but current prices are less than half that.
Adding to the mix, investors were eyeing a US Federal Reserve meeting that culminates Wednesday with a policy announcement that could adjust the central bank’s outlook for raising interest rates in 2015.
“There are just a lot of pieces in play,” said Jack Ablin, chief investment officer at BMO Private Bank.
A sell-off in tech stocks hit Apple (-1.4 per cent), Facebook (-3.0 per cent) and Google (-3.6 per cent), among others.
Microsoft fell 3.2 per cent on a downgrade from Bank of America Merrill Lynch, which cited a “murkier outlook” and the “elevated valuation” of the stock.
Citigroup dropped 3.1 per cent on concerns that it is more exposed to Russia than other large banks.
Some petroleum-linked equities rallied as US oil prices stabilised. Dow component Chevron rose 0.8 per cent, Apache gained 2.7 per cent and oil-services company Schlumberger rose 0.4 per cent.
Dow member Boeing gained 1.8 per cent after announcing it was hiking its quarterly dividend by 25 per cent and that it increased its share repurchase plan to $US12 billion. The aerospace giant had $US4.8 billion remaining in authorised share repurchases prior to the move.
Drugstore CVS Health gained 2.7 per cent as it projected 2015 earnings of $US5.05-$US5.19 per share. Analysts estimated $US5.11 per share in earnings next year.
Bond prices rose as the yield on the 10-year US Treasury fell to 2.07 per cent from 2.12 per cent.
The Australian dollar was largely unchanged from the same time yesterday; at 8:25am (AEDT) it was buying 82.21 US cents.
Futures were pointing to a poor start to local trade; the SPI 200 was 0.3 per cent lower at 5,137.
The key spot iron ore price fell again overnight and was worth $US68.10 a tonne.
Gold was down to $US1,196.26 an ounce.