Homebuilders also declined following new data showing sales of new U.S. homes slumped in July. U.S. crude oil prices also ended essentially flat.
Investors had their eye on the latest developments in the U.S.-China trade dispute as both nations held their first high-level talks in two months. Traders also were looking ahead to Friday’s gathering of central bankers, including Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell, in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, an annual symposium that has often generated market-moving news.
The S&P 500 fell 4.84 points, or 0.2 percent, to 2,856.98. The Dow Jones Industrial Average slid 76.62 points, or 0.3 percent, to 25,656.98. The Nasdaq composite lost 10.64 points, or 0.1 percent, to 7,878.46. The Russell 2000 index of smaller-company stocks gave up 5.49 points, or 0.3 percent, to 1,717.05.
Stocks spent much of the day hovering just below their prior day closing levels.
Markets showed little reaction to the latest round of dueling tariffs between the U.S. and China. The countries imposed 25 percent tariffs on $16 billion of each other’s goods Thursday, including automobiles and factory equipment. The increases were announced previously.
Investors came into this week feeling cautiously optimistic that the talks may lead to an end to the U.S.-China trade dispute. The market has mostly shrugged off the trade uncertainty in recent weeks, focusing instead on another strong quarter of corporate earnings growth. Earnings at S&P 500 companies have surged 23 percent in the first half of this year versus the same period a year earlier, according to S&P Global Market Intelligence.
Banks and other financial stocks took some of the biggest losses Thursday. Charles Schwab declined 1.5 percent to $50.17. Industrial stocks also fell.
Hormel Foods fell 3.1 percent to $37.33 after it cut its sales outlook, partly because of uncertain trade conditions. Other packaged foods companies also declined. J.M. Smucker lost 0.9 percent to $104.45. Campbell Soup slid 1.5 percent to $40.61.
Investors bid up shares in companies that delivered solid quarterly results or outlooks.
Williams-Sonoma’s latest results also impressed analysts. Shares in the home furnishings and cookware company jumped 16.1 percent to $72.66.
Technology companies led the gainers. Advanced Micro Devices vaulted 6.7 percent to $22.29.
Benchmark U.S. crude settled essentially flat at $67.83 per barrel in New York. Brent crude dipped 0.1 percent to $74.73 per barrel in London.
Bond prices were little changed. The yield on the 10-year Treasury held steady at 2.82 percent.
The dollar rose to 111.28 yen from 110.57 yen late Wednesday. The euro weakened to $1.1536 from $1.1589.
Gold fell 0.8 percent to $1,194 an ounce. Silver slid 1.4 percent to $14.54 an ounce. Copper dropped 0.6 percent to $2.68 a pound.
In other energy futures trading, heating oil rose 0.3 percent to $2.18 a gallon. Wholesale gasoline fell 0.4 percent to $2.06 a gallon. Natural gas gained 0.3 percent to $2.96 per 1,000 cubic feet.