Stocks were modestly lower ahead of the closing bell, ending a volatile session marked by a handful of encouraging economic reports, a rising dollar, and investor caution ahead of quarterly earnings reports and monthly jobs data.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average was down more than 10 points, led by Verizon and Alcoa , after failing to break above the 11,000 mark. GE and DuPont rose.
At the market open, the blue-chip index rose to as high as 10,998, almost hitting the psychologically important 11,000 level. The last time the Dow reached the benchmark was on May 4. The highest close for the blue-chip index this year was 11,205.03, reached on April 26.
The S&P 500 fell, while the Nasdaq rose. The CBOE Volatility Index, widely considered the best gauge of fear in the market, rose above 21.
Telecom, materials and energy sectors fell, while health care and technology rose.
One reason for the market's movemens on Wednesday was the dollar, which recouped losses and gained ground against the euro as investors bet the rally against the dollar on concerns about U.S. monetary policy had been overdone. Meanwhile,gold stocks skidded on the dollar's rise, with CBOE Gold Indexfalling about 3 percent.
Also playing a part in the market's decline: Marc Sumerlin, managing director and co-founder of the Lindsey Group, and a former economic policy adviser to President George W. Bush, said it would take up to $7 trillion in asset purchases by the Federal Reserve to make a difference in the economy, according to Marc Pado, market strategist at Cantor Fitzgerald.
“To get someone who was part of the former economic council saying the Fed will need to step up big and do $6 trillion in (asset purchases), was a bit of a shock and created a bit of nervousness,” Pado said.
Any investors with real concerns about either the jobs report, or the upcoming earnings season, was probably on the sidelines, he added.
On the earnings front, PepsiCo shares fell after the beverage giant lowered the top end of its guidancefor the fiscal year because of changes in currency rates.
Marriott shares sank despite a boost in the hotel chain's revenues as analysts focused on the slow growth in the sector. Meanwhile, Goldman Sachs issued a report recommending Hyatt , Starwood and Marriott as a "buy," saying recovery in the lodging sector will continue.