Apple briefly fell more than 3 percent to hit a fresh 52-week intraday low to weigh on the Nasdaq composite, which closed nearly half a percent lower after dipping 1 percent intraday.
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"Anytime you have weakness in a market leader you have to be careful," said Anthony Valeri, investment strategist at LPL Financial.
Apple and Gilead Sciences had the greatest negative impact on the Nasdaq 100, while Microsoft and Amazon.com contributed the most to gains. The iShares Nasdaq Biotechnology ETF (IBB) closed 1.7 percent lower.
"Beta is for sale. Apple is weak, not much technical support," said Ilya Feygin, managing director and senior strategist at WallachBeth Capital.
"I think it's a slightly negative combination of weaker growth and no change in the Fed," he said.
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In economic news, weekly jobless claims rose to 294,000. Import prices rose 0.3 percent in April, while export prices rose 0.5 percent.
Treasury yields held higher, with the 2-year yield near 0.75 percent and the 10-year yield around 1.75 percent. The Treasury also held a $15 billion sale of 30-year bonds that was met with weak demand.
"Tomorrow, retail sales are either going to confirm things really are weak or it will show the employment number and the GDP number was temporary weakness," said Bryce Doty, senior fixed income manager with Sit Investment Associates. "Maybe it's looking more forward to tomorrow morning."
The U.S. dollar index was roughly 0.4 percent higher, with the euro last near $1.137 and the yen near 109.1 yen against the greenback.
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On Wednesday, stocks closed lower despite gains in oil prices as disappointing retail earnings renewed concerns about consumer spending levels ahead of April retail sales, due Friday. The SPDR S&P Retail ETF (XRT) fell 4.4 percent for its worst day since August 2011.
The ETF closed 0.26 percent lower Thursday.
"When you're kind of directionless one little thing can move the market," said Maris Ogg, president, Tower Bridge Advisors.
"I think the market is really hamstrung by its valuation. You're just swinging around one direction to another and it's not making a difference," she said.
Boston Fed President Eric Rosengren, a voting member, said in a speech the markets are underestimating the pace of potential rate hikes by the central bank. In another speech, Cleveland Fed President Loretta Mester said inflation weakness has been driven by transitory oil weakness and a strengthening dollar.
Kansas City Fed President Esther George, another voting member, said in a Reuters report the Fed is keeping interest rates too low and risks encouraging companies to take on excessive amounts of debt.