[New York] Petroleum-linked equities tumbled on Wednesday on plummeting oil prices, pushing US stocks sharply lower.
Oil producers and oil-services companies suffered deep losses as US prices dived 4.6 per cent to close below US$40 a barrel for the first time since late August following a report showing higher US oil inventories.
Dow members Chevron and ExxonMobil fell 2.4 per cent and 2.9 per cent, respectively. Schlumberger dropped 3.0 per cent and Apache 3.7 per cent.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 158.67 points (0.89 per cent) to 17,729.68.
The broad-based S&P 500 dropped 23.12 (1.10 per cent) to 2,079.51, while the tech-rich Nasdaq Composite Index shed 33.08 (0.64 per cent) at 5,123.22.
Ms Yellen, speaking at the Economic Club of Washington, said she expects the US economy will continue to grow strongly enough to support the first interest rate increase in nine years. She did not directly address the Fed's plans at its next Federal Open Market Committee policy meeting in two weeks.
"Bottom line: Yellen supports raising rates in December, and implies support among her FOMC colleagues as long as data do not reveal significant new weakness in the next two weeks," said Chris Low, chief economist at FTN Financial.
Investors are keenly awaiting Friday's US jobs report for November. Payrolls firm ADP reported Wednesday that the US added a solid 217,000 private-sector jobs in November.
Yahoo jumped 5.8 per cent following reports the company is considering the sale of its Internet properties in light of uncertainty about the spin-off of its lucrative stake in Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba.
Chipmaker Qualcomm climbed 5.2 per cent on news it reached a patent license agreement with Chinese smartphone company Xiaomi.
Pipeline operator Kinder Morgan tumbled 7.9 per cent after Moody's shifted its outlook to negative from stable, citing the company's plan to boost its stake in the distressed Natural Gas Pipeline Company of America to 50 per cent from 20 per cent.