(Corrects paragraph 5 to say Chesapeake had tapped existing adviser Kirkland & Ellis to explore restructuring options, not that Kirkland & Ellis had been hired)
* Heavyweights Microsoft, Facebook, Amazon lead sell off
* Chesapeake hit by report it hired restructuring lawyers
* Big banks lead financial sector lower
* Cognizant fall after weak forecast
* Indexes down: Dow 2.12 pct, S&P 2.17 pct, Nasdaq 2.73 pct
By Abhiram Nandakumar
Feb 8 (Reuters) - Wall Street was deep in the red in volatile trading on Monday, as technology stocks continued to sell off and oil prices remained under pressure, sending investors scurrying to safe-haven assets.
The technology-heavy Nasdaq Composite fell nearly 3 percent to its lowest since October 2014, weighed down by Microsoft , Amazon and Facebook, while the Dow Jones industrial average shed more than 350 points.
“Equities are in a ‘go-nowhere-fast’ mode, with a downward bias in the near term,” said Terry Sandven, chief equity strategist at U.S. Bank Wealth Management in Minneapolis.
Crude oil prices eased from their session lows, but were still down about 1 percent.
Chesapeake was the latest casualty of lower energy prices, tumbling 30 percent to $2.14 after sources told Reuters that the natgas company had tapped existing adviser Kirkland & Ellis to explore restructuring options. The stock halved before being halted earlier. Chesapeake said it has no plans to pursue a bankruptcy.
Demand for crude is considered a barometer for global economic health, and markets across the world have closely tracked the rise and fall in the price of the oversupplied commodity this year.
Gold prices rose to their highest since June and the yield on 30-year U.S. treasuries hit their lowest since April.
At 11:31 a.m. ET (1631 GMT), the Dow was down 343.38 points, or 2.12 percent, at 15,861.59.
The S&P 500 was down 40.79 points, or 2.17 percent, at 1,839.26.
The Nasdaq Composite index was down 119.32 points, or 2.73 percent, at 4,243.82. The index is on track for its worst two-day fall since August.
The CBOE volatility index, seen as a measure of Wall Street’s fear, was up 14.5 percent, its biggest jump in a month.
All 10 major S&P sectors were down, with the 3.05 percent fall in financial stocks leading the decliners as they followed European banks lower. Goldman Sachs’ 5.6 percent drop was the biggest drag.
The index, down 15 percent for the year is the worst performing among the 10 sectors on increasing uncertainty about when the Federal Reserve will raise rates again.
Investors have also been worried about the unraveling of rich valuations in a narrow group of stocks that led the market higher through most of 2015.
“What you’ve seen regarding technology and other sectors is that the (higher) valuations are being ratcheted back down closer to the underlying fundamentals that are going to support their growth, if its there,” said Ryan Larson, head of U.S. equity trading at RBC Global Asset Management in Chicago.
Microsoft’s 2.7 percent decline to $48.87 also dragged down the S&P 500. Facebook and Amazon were off about 4 percent, while Alphabet dropped 2 percent.
Cognizant dropped 7 percent to $54.46 after the IT services provider forecast its slowest revenue growth in 14 years.
Declining issues outnumbered advancing ones on the NYSE by 2,675 to 342. On the Nasdaq, 2,245 issues fell and 434 advanced.
The S&P 500 index showed five new 52-week highs and 76 new lows, while the Nasdaq recorded two new highs and 392 new lows. (Reporting by Abhiram Nandakumar in Bengaluru; Editing by Savio D‘Souza)