U.S. markets skidded Wednesday after Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke said
the central bank could begin to taper off on its asset purchases this year.
The Fed's official statement said options included expanding or contracting the $85 billion per month program, but Bernanke at a press conference said the bank could complete the wind-down of its quantitative easing program sometime in 2014.
On Wall Street, the Dow Jones industrial average dropped 206.04 points or 1.35 percent to settle at 15,112.19. The Standard & Poor's 500 shed 22.88 points or 1.39 percent to close at 1,628.93. The Nasdaq composite lost 38.98 points or 1.12 percent to end the day at 3,443.20.
On the New York Stock Exchange, 618 issues advanced and 2,472 declined on volume of 2.7 billion shares.
Japan's Nikkei 225 index, added 1.83 percent or 237.94 points to 13,245.22. Britain's FTSE 100 index shed 0.4 percent or 25.39 points to 6,348.82.
The 10-year treasury note fell 1 15/32 to yield 2.359 percent.
Gold dropped $15.40 to reach $1,351.50 a troy ounce on the Comex division of the New York Mercantile Exchange.
West Texas Intermediate crude oil shifted lower to $98.06 in after-hours trading.
On currency markets, the euro rose to $1.3296. Against the yen, the dollar was higher at 96.47 yen.
On the Chicago Board of Trade, corn for July delivery added 9 cents to hit $6.82 per bushel while soybeans for November delivery added 20 1/4 cents to close at $13.10 and wheat added 17 3/4 cents to finish at $7.05 1/4.
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