U.S. stocks closed off their session lows on Monday amid a late rally in the energy sector.
“I just think it’s bargain hunting from oversold conditions,” said Peter Cardillo, chief market economist at First Standard Financial.
The Dow Jones industrial average closed 177 points lower, with Goldman Sachs and Home Depot weighing the most on the index. The index, however, fell as much as 401.42 points on Monday. Chevronclosed the session as the biggest advancer in the Dow.
The S&P 500 dropped 1.4 percent, with financials and materials lagging. Energy, however, rose in late-afternoon trading, and closed as the only advancing sector.
The Nasdaq composite shed over 3 percent at session lows and closed 1.8 percent lower, as Apple gained 1 percent.
“It might have been people saying the pendulum has swung too far to one side,” said JJ Kinahan, chief strategist at TD Ameritrade. “There are a lot of things going on right now and people are trying to rectify where they truly should be.”
U.S. stocks were sharply lower for most of Monday trading, as global growth concerns weighed on investors.
“I think it’s worries that the global economy is slowing down more than expected and that’s translating into lower oil prices,” said Kate Warne, investment strategist at Edward Jones.
Crude prices resumed their downward trajectory, with WTI closing 3.88 percent lower, or $1.20, at $29.69 a barrel, but rose above $30 a barrel in after-hours. Last week, U.S. oil fell about 6 percent.
“Like it or not, we use oil as a barometer for the global economy,” said Art Hogan, chief market strategist at Wunderlich Securities.
Gold futures for April delivery surged 3.47 percent to close at $1,197.90 an ounce, and broke above $1,200 for the first time since June. The precious metal also recorded its best trading day since December 2014.
“The gold trade is signaling a retreat in global inflation,” said Mark Luschini, chief investment strategist at Janney Montgomery Scott. “In times of economic stress … gold acts as a store of value.”
He also said that, in order to stem this sharp sell-off, “you’re going to need for some tangible evidence that the global economy is not slowing down, and that’s China.”
Chinese markets are closed this week due to the Lunar New Year holiday.
“Without something fresh to sort of turn the tide on this, I think the path of least resistance is to the downside,” Wunderlich Securities’ Hogan said.
With no major economic data due Monday, investors looked ahead to Fed Chair Janet Yellen’s testimony in Congress on Wednesday and Thursday.
“We have the most cautious Fed chair I’ve seen in many, many years,” said Maris Ogg, president at Tower Bridge Advisors. “I think we’re going to get a reiteration … of what we saw in the minutes.”
However, First Standard’s Cardillo said that “if she would hint that wages are rising, but still not at levels that would constitute a rate hike, then that would turn things around.”
Concerns of a Fed rate hike took center stage Friday after the Bureau of Labor Statistics said the U.S. economy added 151,000 jobs in January — below expectations — but wages rose 0.5 percent.
“The wage spike we saw in the jobs report certainly sparked some Fed concerns,” Cardillo said. “But if you look at the yield curve, you wouldn’t think that.”
U.S. Treasurys rallied Monday, with the benchmark 10-year note yield falling to 1.76 percent, while two-year yields traded at 0.67 percent.
“Folks are getting less confident that the central banks can control the economy,” said Bruce Bittles, chief investment strategist at R.W. Baird. “It appears monetary policy has not worked to stimulate the economy, here or [abroad].”
Stocks closes lower Friday, with the Dow falling over 200 points and the Nasdaq tumbling 3 percent.
“At some point, prices have to get low enough where people start seeing them as bargains … but I don’t know when that’s going to happen,” said Randy Frederick, managing director of trading and derivatives at Charles Schwab. “This could go on for a while.”
Overseas, European equities closed lower, with the pan-European STOXX 600 index dropping 3.5 percent. The German DAX also dipped below the 9,000 mark for the first time since October 2014.
“We’re in a very broad-based sell-off. Investors are selling first and asking questions later,” said Adam Sarhan, CEO of Sarhan Capital.
In corporate U.S. news, Hasbro and Diamond Offshore, among others, reported quarterly results.
“Through last Friday’s close, 314 companies in the S&P 500 have now reported 4Q 2015 results,” Nick Raich, CEO of The Earnings Scout, said in a note. “Collectively, 72% of those companies have seen their next quarter’s (i.e. 1Q 2016) EPS estimates drop 4.81% after reporting.”
Read MoreWhy the rout could continue
“Once we get through earnings season, it will be easier for investors to take a more long-term view, but my fear is that the Q1 numbers aren’t going to look much better than the Q4 numbers,” Tower Bridge’s Ogg said.
The Dow Jones industrial average closed 177.92 points lower, or 1.1 percent, at 16,027.05, with Visa leading decliners and Chevron leading advancers.
The S&P 500 closed 26.61 points lower, or 1.42 percent, to 1,853.44, with materials leading nine sectors lower and energy as the only advancer.
The Nasdaq dropped 79.39 points, or 1.82 percent, to close at 4,283.75.
The Dow Transports fell 0.27 percent.
The dollar traded 0.3 percent lower against a basket of currencies. The yen gained 0.91 percent against the dollar.
The CBOE Volatility Index (VIX), widely considered the best gauge of fear in the market, closed near 26, up over 10.8 percent.
Decliners led advancers 4 to 1 on the New York Stock Exchange, with an exchange volume of 1.354 billion and a composite volume of 5.614 billion at the close.