Also on Monday, the World Bank warned that a "more pronounced slowdown" is possible in China, the world's second-largest economy. It also cut its overall growth forecast for developing countries in Asia.
Slower growth in Asia could drag down the U.S. economy. One of the few bright points for the U.S. during the recession was tremendous growth in export demand by developing nations in Asia and other regions.
While the U.S. economy isn't doing badly, investors have been counting on growth in Asia for help, said Rex Macey, chief investment officer at Wilmington Trust Investment Advisors. "There was a point where we said 'Thank goodness for Asia and China. Their growth can fuel the recovery.'" That's not so clear anymore, he said.
Stocks and industries that depend most heavily on U.S. economic growth were among the biggest losers Monday. Intel fell 17 cents to $22.51. Home Depot fell $1.32 to $61.88 and Walt Disney lost 64 cents to $52.33.
Wal-Mart Stores and American Express shares didn't move much after they announced a reloadable prepaid card with no recurring or overdraft fees. But the news hammered shares of prepaid card competitor Green Dot Corp., which has also offered a card with Wal-Mart. Green Dot fell $2.60, or 20 percent, to $10.25.
UnitedHealth Group rose 47 cents to $57.60 after the health insurer said it would pay $4.9 billion in cash to buy most of Brazilian health benefits and hospital services provider Amil Participacoes.
Truck and engine maker Navistar rose $1.60, or 8 percent, to $22.81 after saying it will add two board members associated with activist investors, heading off a proxy battle.
European markets also closed lower. France's CAC-40 fell 1.5 percent, Germany's DAX fell 1.4 percent and Britain's FTSE 100 lost 0.5 percent.U.S. government bond trading was closed for the Columbus Day holiday.