The biggest drop in Walmart's stock in 30 years and losses in other sectors pulled U.S. indexes lower Tuesday, snapping a six-day winning streak.
The losses deepened in the last hour of trading into a broad sell-off that erased early gains led by technology companies.
Grocery store operators, retailers, health care companies and industrial stocks accounted for much of the market's slide.
"Investors have been lulled into a false sense that stock markets are not volatile," said Doug Cote, chief market strategist for Voya Investment Management. "Last week was one of the best weeks in years, and as we go back to normal volatility, you're going to see what you would expect: normal ups and downs."
The S&Ps 500 index fell 15.96 to close at 2,716.26. The Dow Jones industrial average slid 254.63 to 24,964.75. The Nasdaq lost 5.16 to 7,234.31. The Russell 2000 index of smaller-company stocks gave up 13.56 to 1,529.99.
The S&P 500, a benchmark for many index funds, capped its strongest week in five years on Friday, recovering more than half of the losses it suffered in a plunge at the beginning of this month. Stocks began giving back some of those gains early Tuesday as trading reopened after a long holiday weekend and investors began sizing up company earnings while keeping an eye on the bond market.
The yield on the 10-year Treasury, which is used as a benchmark for mortgages and other loans, has been rising in recent months from a low of 2.04 percent in September. Higher bond yields indicate investors expect more risk of inflation, and they also can threaten stock prices by making bonds more appealing versus stocks.
"Some of the broader concerns on investors' minds right now are looking across to the bond market and seeing the 10-year Treasury starting to approach that 3 percent level," said Bill Northey, vice president at U.S. Bank Wealth Management.
Bond prices, which had been declining early Tuesday, ended up little changed. The yield on the 10-year Treasury held at 2.88.
As Walmart fell, so did several other big retailers, including Target and Ross Stores.
Gap declined after the clothing chain said the head of the Gap brand will leave the company. Jeff Kirwan, who has been with the company since 2004, had led the namesake brand since the end of 2014. The Gap said Kirwan had failed to achieve "the operational excellence and accelerated profit growth" that the company expected for the Gap brand.