The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell nearly 1,600 points for its biggest intraday drop in history in points terms, or more than 6.0 percent, before ending down 1,175.21 points, or 4.6 percent for it's biggest one day fall since Aug. 2011.
Only last month the Dow and S&P500 index had their best monthly gains in two years with stocks reaching record levels on Jan. 26, supported by the benefit of cut in U.S. corporate taxes in December, rising earnings, and healthy global economic growth.
But with the Federal Reserve seen likely to raise short term interest rates again three or four times in 2018, bond yields have been rising, and last Friday's healthy U.S. labour market report sparked fears of rising inflation, leading to Monday's sharp bout of profit taking.
"It looks to me like a typical type of scenario when you see a single stock flash crash where you'll see bids just disappear, stop orders get kicked," said Joe Saluzzi, co-manager of trading at Themis Trading in Chatham, New Jersey. "The overall market could have taken a cue from some of the bigger names."
The CBoe Volatility index closed at its highest since August 2015.
Selling hit all S&P sectors, though the S&P financial index, down 5.0 percent, was the biggest daily percentage decliner, followed by healthcare, down 4.6 percent.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 1,175.21 points, or 4.6 percent, to 24,345.75, the S&P 500 lost 113.19 points, or 4.10 percent, to 2,648.94 and the Nasdaq Composite dropped 273.42 points, or 3.78 percent, to 6,967.53.
The pan-European FTSEurofirst 300 index lost 1.51 percent and MSCI's gauge of stocks across the globe shed 2.96 percent.
After rising sharply last week, U.S. Treasury yields fell from four-year highs on Monday as the selloff in equity markets sparked demand for low risk debt.
The 10-year notes were last up rose 38/32 in price to yield 2.7093 percent, down from 2.852 percent late on Friday.
The U.S. dollar rose against a basket of currencies as the U.S. bond market selloff levelled off.
The dollar index rose 0.45 percent, with the euro last down 0.61 percent to $1.2384.
In commodities, U.S. crude fell 1.99 percent to $64.15 a barrel, while Brent fell 1.4 percent to $67.62.
Oil prices settled more than 1.0 percent lower, pressured by rising U.S. output and other factors.
Spot gold steadied at $1,334.40 an ounce.
(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)