Dow turns negative for the year as stocks plunge by Tom Huddleston, Jr. @FortuneMagazine March 25, 2015, 5:58 PM EDT E-mail Tweet Facebook Google Plus Linkedin Share icons The Dow Jones Industrial Average turned negative for the year on Wednesday after a market wide sell-off sent U.S. stocks plummeting amid weak economic data and continued concerns over the strong U.S. dollar. The Dow Jones dropped more than 290 points, or 1.6%, to 17,718 points Wednesday afternoon as the U.S. market saw its third straight day of losses. The blue chip index is now more than 100 points in the red for the year after a few turbulent months to start 2015. After a strong February, the Dow is down nearly 2.3% in March. Meanwhile, the Nasdaq composite fell 118 points, or 2.4%, to 4,876 points. The tech-heavy index has slipped by roughly 150 points since closing last Friday within almost 20 points of its all-time record close (not counting inflation adjustment), which it set just before the dot-com bubble burst in 2000. The S&P 500 fell 30 points, or 1.5%, to finish Wednesday at 2,061. The benchmark index is down 2.3% so far this week. The Commerce Department reported Wednesday that durable goods orders fell for a sixth straight month in February thanks, in part, to a strong dollar and a drop-off in global demand. Investors also appeared to be girding themselves for what could be a disappointing earnings season for the current quarter after many companies already blamed the strong dollar for poor performances after the most recent quarter. Wednesday’s losses came after the news that HJ Heinz will merge with Kraft Foods Group KRFT , in a deal brokered by Berkshire Hathaway and private equity firm 3G, to form a massive new food company. Kraft’s stock jumped more than 35% during Wednesday trading. The rest of the U.S. market suffered on Wednesday, though, including share declines for major tech outfits such as Microsoft MSFT , IBM IBM and Intel INTC . Several companies in the semiconductor industry also saw their shares decline, including Avago Technologies AVGO , Applied Materials AMAT and NVIDIA Corp. NVDA .