Stocks on Wall Street followed European and Asian markets lower as policy makers began to meet in Brussels to debate how best to spur growth.
The Standard Poor’s 500-stock index fell 0.8 percent and the Dow Jones industrial average lost 0.5 percent in early trading. The Nasdaq composite index dropped 0.5 percent.
The price of long-term Treasury bonds gained more than a point on continuing anxiety that Greece may exit the euro zone. The yield on 30-year bonds fell to 2.81 percent, while the 10-year yield slid to 1.73 percent.
As the leaders of the 27 European Union countries gather, markets were showing little faith that they have a strategy to avert an even broader downturn.
The meeting takes place one day after the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development warned that the 17 European Union countries that use the euro risk falling into a “severe recession.”
Britain’s FTSE 100 fell 1.7 percent, while Germany’s DAX lost 1.6 percent. The CAC 40 in France slid 2 percent.
The euro was also under pressure, trading lower at $1.2644, near four-month lows.
Events in Europe and in Asia, where Japan reported that its trade deficit continues to widen, overshadowed encouraging news from the American housing market.
Toll Brothers, the home builder based in Pennsylvania, returned to a second-quarter profit, and its executive chairman, Robert Toll, said that in some locations, it was no longer a buyer’s market and in a few places, it was even a seller’s market.
“We would like to say, `We’re back,’ but we need a little more confirmation,” Mr. Toll said. “Nonetheless, it sure feels good, compared to the desert we’ve just crossed.”
The earnings report came just before the Commerce Department releases its latest figures on new home sales.
Also on Wednesday, after a tumultuous two days, shares of Facebook appeared to have stabilized. The stock was up 4 percent to $32.11, but they were still well off the $38 offering price from Friday after a two-day sell-off.