Wall Street sinks over 1.5%

Nasdaq closes out worst day since November 2011 as stocks hit by weak China data.

US stocks have closed sharply lower as investors weigh soft Chinese trade data and shift away from high-growth tech and healthcare stocks.

At the closing bell, the Dow Jones Industrial Average slumped 267.22 points, or 1.63%, to 16,169.96.

The broad-based S&P 500 dipped 39.09 points, or 2.09%, to 1,833.09, while the tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite Index plunged 129.79 points, or 3.10%, to 4,054.11.

The performance of the S&P 500 was its worst since February 3 and the index is now down on the year.

Meanwhile, the Nasdaq recorded its worst day since November 2011, just six days after a similar slump of 2.6%. The falls were largely driven by biotech stocks, though several 'momentum' stocks, including Twitter, Facebook, Netflix and Tesla, had difficult days.

While momentum stocks were again hit, investors were also skittish ahead of earnings to be reported by the nation's two largest banks -- JP Morgan Chase and Wells Fargo -- tomorrow. Both banks closed over 2.5% lower.

In US economic news, weekly jobless claims fell to a seven-year low, in a welcome strong development. However, investors appear to have largely overlooked this data.

In China, trade data yesterday showed an economy that was cooling, with imports falling 11.3% and exports retreating 6.6%. The pain was exacerbated by news Beijing would not step in to provide stimulus, against market hopes.

In Europe, the Bank of England maintained rates at a record low, while Greece made a very successful return to bond markets. Those two developments helped European markets to largely trade flat on the day despite the falls on Wall Street.