NEW YORK (AFP) - US stocks closed sharply lower Monday as signs of political instability in Italy and Spain renewed worries about the the euro zone's long-running public debt crisis.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average dropped 129.71 points (0.93 per cent) to finish at 13,880.08.
The S&P 500-stock index fell 17.46 (1.15 per cent) to 1,495.71.
The tech-rich Nasdaq Composite Index skidded 47.93 (1.51 per cent) to 3,131.17, dragged down by a 2.5 per cent fall in Apple.
After the US equity markets hit highs unseen in more than five years last week, stocks were "pressured by political concerns out of the eurozone," Charles Schwab & Co said in a market note.
Investors worried about political instability ahead of Italy's Feb 24-25 election and as Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy faced corruption allegations, which he has denied.
Government data showing US industrial orders rose less than expected in December weighed further on sentiment.
Analysts said that Wall Street had been due for a breather after the Dow closed on Friday above the psychologically important 14,000 level for the first time in more than five years.
McGraw-Hill, parent of Standard & Poor's, plunged 13.8 per cent. S&P said it expects to be sued by the US Department of Justice over its rating of mortgage bonds prior to the 2008 financial crisis.
Oracle shed almost 1.0 per cent after offering $2.1 billion in cash to buy Acme Packet, whose technology enables the communication of voice and data over networks. Acme Packet soared 23.7 per cent.
Computer maker Dell dropped 2.6 per cent amid reports it was near a deal to go private.
BlackBerry, the former Research in Motion trading for the first day under its new corporate name and symbol, soared 15.0 per cent.
Embattled nutritional goods company Herbalife lost 1.3 per cent following a report in the New York Post that the company is under investigation by the Federal Trade Commission.
Anheuser-Busch Inbev dived 5.0 per cent after Bank of America Merrill Lynch downgraded the stock following the Justice Department's suit last week to block its takeover of Mexico's Modelo. The suit left AB InBev's outlook "highly uncertain," the broker said.
Bond prices rose. The yield on the 10-year US Treasury fell to 1.97 per cent from 2.01 late Friday, while the 30-year declined to 3.18 per cent from the 3.21 level on Friday. Bond prices and yields move inversely.