Stocks came off session lows by late morning Wednesday, though remained deep in the red as the energy sector led a steep selloff.
The S&P 500 tumbled 1.1%, the Dow Jones Industrial Average was down 1.2%, and the Nasdaq slipped 0.75%.
Crude oil prices fell to 11-year lows after crude inventories fell at a slower-than-expected pace in the past week. Domestic stocks fell by 5.1 million barrels in the week ended Jan. 1, slower than a forecast drop of 5.6 million barrels.
Commodity traders have faced concerns over oversupply, global production at record highs, and weakening demand, even as tensions between Saudi Arabia and Iran earlier this week boosted hopes over supply disruptions. West Texas Intermediate crude fell 2.4% to $35.10 a barrel on Wednesday.
The energy sector was the worst performer on markets. Chevron (CVX) , Exxon Mobil (XOM) , and Royal Dutch Shell (RDS.A) each fell more than 1%, while the Energy Select Sector SPDR ETF (XLE) slid 3.3%.
North Korea announced Wednesday it carried out a successful hydrogen bomb test in what state media called protection against the "ever-growing nuclear threat and blackmail by the U.S.-led hostile forces." The detonation marks the fourth time North Korea has tested nuclear bombs.
The latest development in North Korea added to fears of national security already exacerbated by ISIS and rising tensions in the Middle East. Over the weekend, Saudi Arabia broke off diplomatic ties with Iran after protesters torched a Saudi Arabian embassy in Tehran.
Minutes from the Federal Reserve's December meeting were on tap for release Wednesday afternoon. The meeting resulted in the first rate hike in nearly a decade. Investors will be keen to parse comments from Fed members to discern the likely pace of future hikes.