Stocks recovered much of a midday swoon but still ended lower following some discouraging news on the global economy and retail sales in the U.S.
The price of copper plunged Wednesday, and investors seeking safety piled into bonds.
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The World Bank lowered its forecast for global growth this year. It blamed sluggish economies in Europe and Japan, and a slowdown in China.
The Dow Jones industrial average lost 186 points, or 1.1 percent, to 17,427. It was down as much as 348 points earlier.
The Standard & Poor's 500 index fell 11 points, 0.6 percent, to 2,011. The Nasdaq composite fell 22 points, or 0.5 percent, to 4,639.
Bank stocks fell after JPMorgan Chase reported weaker results.
The yield on the 10-year Treasury note dropped to 1.84 percent.