U.S. stocks traded sharply lower Wednesday, with the blue-chip Dow Jones Industrial Average tumbling more than 200 points, as U.S. businesses spent less on investment for a sixth straight month in February, causing concerns for investors as a strengthening dollar will continue to weigh on corporate profits from U.S. multinationals ahead of earnings season. Investor sentiment also declined after U.S. crude stockpiles remained at a record high for the 11th consecutive week, the most at any time in at least 80 years.

In afternoon trading Wednesday, the Dow Jones Industrial Average (INDEXDJX:.DJI), which measures the share prices of 30 large industrial companies, dropped 207.19 points, or 1.15 percent, to 17,803.95. The Standard & Poor’s 500 (INDEXNASDAQ:.IXIC) lost 18.17 points, or 0.87 percent, to 2,073.38. The Nasdaq composite (INDEXSP:.INX) fell 81.61 points, or 1.63 percent, to 4,913.12.

U.S. business investment spending plans fell for a sixth straight month in February, weighed down by a strengthening dollar, weak global demand and restrained activity due to poor weather. Non-defense capital goods orders excluding aircraft, a closely watched barometer for business spending plans, dropped 1.4 percent last month after a revised 0.1 percent dip in January, the Commerce Department said Wednesday.

Investors fear continued strength in the dollar will slow U.S. earnings growth. A prolonged period of dollar strengthening would hurt U.S. multinational corporations once they convert foreign revenue to dollars as nearly half of the S&P 500’s revenues are derived from overseas.

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