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Energy, materials and financial stocks sustained heavy selling on Monday, knocking the major market averages into the red after a two-week rally.
As of 3:30 p.m. ET, the Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 48.4 points, or 0.36%, to 13545, the S&P 500 slipped 6.2 points, or 0.42%, to 1460 and the Nasdaq Composite slumped 10.7 points, or 0.33%, to 3173.
Energy futures came under heavy selling across the board on the day. The benchmark WTI contract dropped $3 in a minute on a spike in volume, while Brent crude, a key European variety, dropped $5 at one point. The former settled $2.38, or 2.4% to the downside in pit trading in New York at $96.62 a barrel.
The reason for the sudden fall was not immediately apparent, although energy traders had been speculating about a potential release of the American Strategic Petroleum Reserve. The White House said "all options remain on the table, but we have nothing to announce at this time."
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The Commodities Futures Trading Commission, which is the front-line regulator for that industry was looking into the swift drop, according to a report by Reuters.
As such, energy stocks were some of the worst performers on the day, along with materials and financial shares.
The S&P closed out last week at the highest level since December 2007, ending in the green for the second week in a row. The broad-market index tacked on 4.2% in that period.
The gains last week were fueled by action from the Federal Reserve aimed at bolstering the U.S. economy. The central bank unveiled an open-ended bond-buying plan and pushed back its guidance on when it plans to raise short-term interest rates. It also pledged to take whatever other action is necessary to give the struggling labor market a boost.
Action was quieter for equities as the week kicked off. The New York Federal Reserve's regional manufacturing gauge fell to -10.41 in September from -5.85 in August. It was the lowest reading since April 2009. The gauge was expected to climb to -2. Readings above zero point to expansion, while those below indicate contraction.
Elsewhere, the trade war between the U.S. and China heated up. The Wall Street Journal reported that the U.S. will file a complaint with the World Trade Organization against the country over its pricing of auto parts. China followed up with a WTO complaint over so-called "countervailing duties," according to a report by Reuters.
The Euro Stoxx 50 fell 0.42% to 2584, the English FTSE 100 dipped 0.37% to 5894 and the German DAX slipped 0.11% to 7404.
In Asia, the Chinese Hang Seng rose 0.14% to 20658. Markets in Japan were closed for a holiday.