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Stocks slide; worst hit in 3 weeks for Dow, S&P 500

U.S. stocks declined on Wednesday, with benchmark indexes retreating from all-time highs, after the World Bank lowered its outlook for global growth.

"The World Bank cut the global-growth rate a bit. If the market needs an excuse to move lower because it's overbought, let's pin it on that. The market was probably due for a pause anyway regardless of that revision," said Jim Russell, senior equity strategist for US Bank Wealth Management.

"Technicians would tell you we're in an overbought situation right now. It does not mean we have to decline significantly, but more cautious strategists would point out that we've gone 32 months without a decline of 10 percent or more, and the average is 18 months since World War II. We've gone a lot longer than we normally go," said Sam Stovall, managing director, U.S. equity strategy at S&P Capital IQ.

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor's surprising loss to a tea party activist in Tuesday night's Virginia primary also rattled investors, with some wondering if it heralded the return of gridlock on Capitol Hill.

"I hope it doesn't mean that it will be impossible from this point forward to compromise on issues like the budget, immigration policy," Goldman Sachs Group CEO Lloyd Blankfein said in a televised interview on CNBC.

Read MoreStock market not so complacent after Cantor's loss

The seven-term Republican's defeat is "feeding into the idea of political uncertainty," said Jeffrey Kleintop, chief market strategist at LPL Financial, who also pointed to increased geopolitical tension in the Middle East as fostering unease, with insurgents taking over the Iraqi city of Mosul on Tuesday.

Read MoreTurkey calls for emergency NATO meeting on Iraq

The CBOE Volatility Index, a measure of investor uncertainty, jumped 5.6 percent.

In its report, the World Bank projected the global economy would expand 2.8 percent in 2014, down from a 3.2 percent forecast delivered in January. Its estimate for world growth in 2015 held at 3.4 percent.

"We are not totally out of the woods yet," Kaushik Basu, the bank's senior vice president and chief economist, said in a news release.

Read MoreWorld Bank: 'Now is the time to prepare for next crisis'

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After a 124-point fall, the Dow Jones Industrial Average lost 102.04 points, or 0.6 percent, to 16,843.88, with Boeing leading blue-chip declines that reached to 26 of 30 components.

The plane maker declined after RBC Capital downgraded the stock to sector perform from outperform. And, Bloomberg cited a Guggenheim Securities analyst as saying Boeing was the "biggest loser" besides Cantor in the Virginia primary, because the Republican's defeat jeopardizes congressional reauthorization of low-cost lending that helps foreign carriers purchase jets.

The S&P 500 declined 6.9 points, or 0.4 percent, to 1,943.89, with utilities the leading laggard and energy the sole sector in the green of the index's 10 major industry groups.

The Nasdaq shed 6.07 points, or 0.1 percent, to 4,331.93.


For every two shares rising, nearly two fell on the New York Stock Exchange, where nearly 532 million shares exchanged hands. Composite volume neared 2.7 billion.

On the New York Mercantile Exchange, crude futures for July delivery added 5 cents to finish at $104.40 a barrel; gold futures for August delivery rose $1.10 to $1,261.20 an ounce.

The dollar edged lower against the currencies of major U.S. trading partners and the 10-year Treasury note yield used in figuring mortgage rates and other consumer loans fell a basis point to 2.635 percent.

Mortgage applications jumped 10.3 percent last week, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association, with the increased activity coming just as rates were starting to climb again.

The surge in applications came "as some rushed to close deals given the recent rise in a 30-year fixed mortgage to 4.34 percent from 4.26 percent in the prior week," Nick Raich, CEO at the Earnings Scout, wrote in a research note.

On Tuesday, the Dow extended its record climb to a fourth session, and the S&P 500 halted a four-session streak of record closes.

"The market appears poised to consolidate for a few days, after which we think the uptrend will resume once widespread short-term overbought conditions see further relief," noted Katie Stockton, chief technical strategist at BTIG.

Read MoreS&P 500 aims at 2,000 as stocks keep on climbing

"We continue to believe stocks will continue melting up as EPS expectations continue to improve. However, a sharp rise in interest rates would be at the top of our list as something that could derail improvement," offered Raich.

—By CNBC's Kate Gibson

Coming Up This Week:

Thursday: Weekly jobless claims, 8:30 a.m. Eastern; retail sales, 8:30 a.m. Eastern; import and export prices, 8:30 a.m. Eastern; business inventories, 10 a.m. Eastern; 30-year Treasury bond auction, 1 p.m. Eastern.

Friday: Producer price index, 8:30 a.m. Eastern; consumer sentiment, 9:45 a.m. Eastern.

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