U.S. stocks traded lower in the morning session Tuesday, as investors were closely watching the Federal Open Market Committee's two-day meeting.
At midday, the Dow Jones Industrial Average dropped 165.33 points, or 0.92 percent, to 17,812.09. The S&P 500 lost 12.91 points, or 0.62 percent, to 2,068.28. The Nasdaq Composite Index was down 12.25 points, or 0.25 percent, to 4,917.25.
The FOMC started a two-day meeting Tuesday and is expected to release its statement Wednesday afternoon. Investors were eagerly awaiting the statement, with many expecting the central bank to pave the way to a rate hike by removing the word "patient" from its statement.
Economic data came out unexpectedly weak, dampening investor sentiment. U.S. private-owned housing starts in February were at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 897,000, which is 17 percent below the revised January estimate of 1,081,000 and 3.3 percent below the February 2014 rate of 928,000, the Commerce Department reported Tuesday.
"With February's decline in starts and likely subsequent backing up in the housing market as a whole, it looks unlikely that housing will be a strong growth engine anytime soon this year, " said Sophia Kearney-Lederman, an economic analyst at FTN Financial, in a note.
U.S. currency markets traded mixed. The U.S. dollar continued to dip in the day, while the euro was up 0.35 percent against the dollar from the previous session around midday.