The US stock market took investors on a stomach-churning ride today, as the Dow Jones industrial average briefly plunged more than 1,000 points and sent a shiver of fear from Wall Street to Main Street. Stocks regained much of that ground as the day wore on, with the Dow at -589, Nasdaq at -180, and the S&P 500 at -78 by closing time . But the slump—part of a global wave of selling triggered by the slowdown in China—reflected uncertainty among investors over where to put their money when the world's second-largest economy is in a slide. "What's a company that's doing business with China actually worth right now? When you're not sure, you tend to sell," says JJ Kinahan, TD Ameritrade's chief strategist.
The Standard & Poor's 500 index also fell sharply shortly after the opening bell, entering "correction" territory—Wall Street jargon for a drop of 10% or more from a recent peak. The last market correction was nearly four years ago. US treasury securities surged as investors bought less risky assets. Oil prices fell. But investors also saw opportunity, moving fast and early to snap up some bargains. That helped trim some of the market's earlier losses. "There is a lot of fear in the markets," says Bernard Aw, market strategist at IG. The sell-off triggered worries in corporate boardrooms, in government capitals, and among ordinary Americans young and old who have been saving for retirement or a down payment on a house. (Read more stock market stories.)