A slew of mixed earnings reports by bellwethers and a drop in oil prices piled pressure on stocks with the three major indexes trading slightly lower on Thursday.
Crude fell about 1 percent, but hovered near five-month highs after the International Energy Agency said 2016 would see the biggest fall in non-OPEC production in 25 years.
A recent rebound in oil, better-than-expected corporate results and a cautious Federal Reserve have pushed the S&P 500 to striking distance of its life-high of 2,134.72.
"The market has a singular focus to retake the old highs set back in May last year," said Sam Stovall, U.S. equity strategist at S&P Global Market Intelligence in New York.
"Right now, it's probably just taking a little breather because it has come so far so fast, but I still see the market moving up and attempting to get back to breakeven."
At 12:38 p.m. ET (1638 GMT), the Dow Jones industrial average was down 54.11 points, or 0.3 percent, at 18,042.16, the S&P 500 was down 4.83 points, or 0.23 percent, at 2,097.57 and the Nasdaq Composite was down 0.78 points, or 0.02 percent, at 4,947.35.
Five of the 10 major S&P sectors were lower. Verizon pulled the telecom sector down 2.17 percent and weighed the most on the S&P 500.
Verizon's shares fell 0.3 percent after the company said a strike by its wireline workers was expected to hurt earnings this quarter.
Travelers fell 4.9 percent to $110.10 after the property and casualty insurer reported a 17 percent fall in profit. The stock was the biggest drag on the Dow.
As much as 77 percent of the S&P companies that have reported so far in the first quarter have beaten profit estimates, compared with the 63 percent that surprise in a typical quarter, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.
S&P 500 companies are expected to post a 7.2 percent fall in profit on average, and a 1.4 percent decline in revenue.
Revenue growth will remain a key influence on stocks. American Express shares were up 1.2 percent after revenue rose for the first time in five quarters, while Mattel sank 6.3 percent after sales fell.
Under Armour rose 7.5 percent to $47.27, while General Motors rose 2 percent to $32.83 after reporting better-than-expected profits.
Declining issues outnumbered advancing ones on the NYSE by 1,460 to 1,447. On the Nasdaq, 1,345 issues fell and 1,340 rose.
The S&P 500 index showed 10 new 52-week highs and no new lows, while the Nasdaq recorded 42 new highs and 11 lows.
(Reporting by Abhiram Nandakumar in Bengaluru; Editing by Don Sebastian)
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First Published On : Apr 22, 2016 00:00 IST