Blue chips stocks on Wall Street dropped the most this year as doubts rose about the about the health of industrial shares.
Investors also balanced China's pledge to step up its participation in a eurozone bailout of Greece against reports that finance officials were seeking ways to delay at least part of the latest bailout.
At the close (10am NZ time), the Dow Jones Industrial Average was down 97.33 points, or 0.8%, to 12,780.95, after rising for five out of the past six days.
The S&P 500 index shed earlier gains to finish down 0.5% at 1343.23 while the Nasdaq Composite also reversed direction to lose 0.6% to 2915.83.
Leading the declines were industrials and telecommunications stocks. Caterpillar lost 0.6% and AT&T lost 0.6%.
Gains among technology and financial stocks helped to limit those losses. Bank of America rose 0.8% and Hewlett-Packard gained 1%.
Other markets: Europe, Asia up
In Europe, most markets advanced after data showed the eurozone economy shrank less than forecast in the fourth quarter of 2011 and Chinese officials pledged to support the region.
The Stoxx Europe 600 index gained 0.6% to close at 264.16. The French CAC 40 index rose 0.4% to 3390.35 and in Germany, the DAX 30 index rose 0.4% to 6757.94. The UK’s FTSE 100 index fell 0.1% to 5892.16.
Asian stocks surged, with Japan and Hong Kong's main benchmarks hitting six-month highs, after China indicated plans to expand its support for the eurozone in its debt crisis.
The Nikkei Stock Average rallied 2.3% to 9260.34, while Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index jumped 2.1% to 21365.23, their highest closing levels since August.
The Shanghai Composite Index gained 0.9% to 2366.70, the Korean Kospi climbed 1.1% to 2025.32, while Australia's S&P/ASX 200 index rose 0.3% to 4253.4.
Indian shares finished at their highest level in six-and-a-half months. The Bombay Stock Exchange's Sensex added 353.84 points, or 2.0%, to end at 18,202.41.
Commodities: Oil rises above $US101
Oil futures held onto early gains after a government report showed a small decline in US crude stockpiles.
Light, sweet crude for March delivery rose 64USc, or 0.7%, to $US101.38 a barrel in New York.
Brent crude, the European benchmark, shot to a six-month high just shy of $US120 a barrel after a report from Iranian state television saying sales to France, Greece, Italy, the Netherlands, Portugal and Spain would be cut off.
Prices later retreated to trade 1.3% higher at $118.86 a barrel.
Gold futures rebounded after three consecutive sessions of losses.
The most actively traded contract, for April delivery, was up $US20.60, or 1.2%, at $US1738.30 an ounce in New York.
Currencies: Euro plunges across board
The euro slumped against most other major currencies after fresh cracks appeared in pressing efforts to avoid a Greek debt default.
A Reuters report suggested finance officials from the eurozone were considering a delay to all or part of a second bailout package being prepared for Greece.
The currency plunged 0.4% against the US dollar, to hit a low for the day at $US1.3066. It dropped to its lowest point since introduction against the New Zealand dollar at $NZ1.5590 and the Australian dollar at $A1.2177. It also tumbled against the yen and sterling.
The euro was at $US1.3079 compared with $US1.3131 late on Tuesday. The dollar was at ¥78.34 from ¥78.44.
The UK pound traded at $1.5706 from $1.5694, while the dollar bought 0.9229 Swiss franc from 0.9195 franc.