U.S. stocks retreated from record highs Wednesday as investors focused on corporate earnings, including a dour outlook from economic bellwether Caterpillar.
In international economic news, Chinese stocks fell sharply on concerns about rising money market rates and risky bank lending. European markets were under pressure after the European Central Bank (ECB) said banks would be subjected to more stringent stress tests.
In corporate news, Dow component Caterpillar reported a slump in sales and earnings, noting that a slowdown in the mining sector has taken a bite out of heavy equipment manufacturing. Caterpillar shares were down 6 percent. Boeing, which is also in the Dow, rose 5 percent after the company reported a surge in quarterly profit and revenue as the aircraft manufacturer works its way through a backlog of orders. Northrop Grumman reported earnings and sales above expectations and raised its outlook for the year. AT&T reported earnings after the closing bell that topped forecasts. Sales were roughly in line with estimates. Shares of Broadcom sank 3 percent after the chipmaker said Tuesday that sales will be below analysts' expectations in the fourth quarter.
The dollar gained ground against the euro, the pound, and the yen. Light sweet crude oil for December delivery dropped $1.44 to $96.86 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Gold futures fell $8.60 to $1,334.00 an ounce.
The Dow Jones industrial average lost 54.33, or 0.35 percent, to 15,413.33. The broader Standard & Poor's 500 index fell 8.29, or 0.47 percent, to 1,746.38. The technology-heavy Nasdaq composite index dropped 22.50, or 0.57 percent, to 3,907.07.