Stocks remained near lows by mid-afternoon Thursday as worries over crude oil continued to pressure markets.
The S&P 500 slid 0.56%, the Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 0.68%, and the Nasdaq was down 1%.
Crude oil declined on reports a meeting between major oil producers set for March 20 was unlikely to happen. Members of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries and non-member Russia are reportedly waiting on Iran to confirm whether it would be open to a production-freeze agreement. West Texas Intermediate crude was down 1.9% to $37.57 a barrel.
"The global petroleum markets are testing the downside in Thursday trade on OPEC comments suggesting a proposed March 20 producer summit in Moscow may not happen," said Citi's Timothy Evans. "With Saudi Arabia firm on maintaining production and Iran determined to increase output to prior levels, there wasn't much hope of a breakthrough in any case."
Good vibes over the European Central Bank's stimulus measures also faded in the afternoon session as investors digested the likelihood of no further rate hikes.
"From today's perspective and taking into account the support of our measures to growth and inflation, we don't anticipate that it will be necessary to reduce rates further," ECB President Mario Draghi said in a press conference.
The ECB introduced more stimulus to revitalize the eurozone economy on Thursday morning. The ECB lowered the benchmark interest rate to zero, while cutting its deposit facility rate to minus 0.4%. The central bank also expanded its monthly asset purchases to 80 billion euros, beginning next month.
"This comprehensive package will exploit the synergies between the different instruments and has been calibrated to further ease financing conditions, stimulate new credit provision and thereby reinforce the momentum of the euro area's economic recovery and accelerate the return of inflation to levels below, but close to 2%," Draghi said.