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The Dow Jones Industrial Average is now in negative territory for the year after a big sell-off Thursday. (Jin Lee/Bloomberg)

The Dow Jones Industrial Average lost more than 300 points on Thursday as investors dumped shares in just about everything following Argentina defaulting and bleak earnings and profit outlooks from a host of companies.

The Dow closed at 15,563 on Thursday, down 316 points on the day. 

The drop was enough to wipe out all of the gains for all of 2014 on America's most closely watched stock indicator. The Dow Jones index finished 2013 at 15,576 on Dec. 31 of last year.

"It's an accumulation of all these little things," said Jerry Braakman, chief investment officer at First American Trust. "People feel that we due for, not a major correction, but some sell-off in the three to 10 per cent range."

The main thing moving markets lower was news late Wednesday that Argentina had entered "technical default" meaning it was unable to pay its debts. But there was plenty of bad news about the American economy to keep the dour mood going.

Upscale grocer Whole Foods Market lowered its sales forecast for the year, and Yum Brands — the owner of KFC and Pizza Hut — said Thursday a food safety scandal in China that involved repacked meat has hurt sales and might be severe enough to cut into the company's global profit.

L-3 Communications lost 15 per cent after the company reported that it was investigating accounting irregularities at is Aerospace Systems unit. And oil giant Exxon sold off after it revealed it pumped out six per cent less oil in the last quarter than it was expecting to.

Canadian stocks were not immune to the sell-off as the S&P/TSX composite index fell 189 points on the day after hitting a fresh record high close on Wednesday. The TSX closed at 15,332 after hitting an all-time high of 15,524 the day before.

With files from The Associated Press