The Standard & Poor's 500 index (^GPSC) surrendered 8 points, or 0.5 percent, to 1,746, the Dow Jones industrial average (^DJI) lost 54 points, or 3.5 percent, to 15,413 and the Nasdaq composite index (^IXIC) gave up 22 points, or 0.6 percent, to 3,907.
Earnings from two Dow components underlined how mixed the corporate reporting season has been, with investors concerned about revenue growth and company forecasts.
Caterpillar (CAT) was one of the biggest decliners on the S&P, slumping 6.1 percent to $83.76 after the heavy-equipment machinery maker cut its full-year outlook for a third time and its profit missed expectations. That sent shares tumbling by their most in a day since September 2011.
On the upside, Boeing (BA) surged 5.4 percent to $129.02 after reporting a rise in adjusted profit and raising its full-year forecast. The aircraft maker also announced plans to increase production of its trouble-prone 787 Dreamliner jetliner.
About a third of S&P 500 companies have reported thus far, with 66.3 percent topping profit expectations, a rate that is slightly higher than the historical average.
Semiconductor stocks dropped 3 percent a day after Broadcom (BRCM), Altera (ALTR) and RF Micro Devices (RFMD) joined Intel (INTC) and Texas Instruments (TXN) on a list of semiconductor companies that have unveiled underwhelming quarterly forecasts this past week.
In commodities trading, oil prices continued their downward slide. Benchmark crude for December delivery slipped $1.22, or 1.2 percent, to $97.08, while gold lost $8.60, or 0.6 percent, to end at $1,333.90.
More Stocks in the News:
- A unit of Samsung Electronics could become the biggest shareholder of Corning, the maker of scratch-resistant Gorilla Glass used in many mobile gadgets. Corning (GLW) shares jumped 14.1 percent to $17.52.
- Shares of Cree (CREE) slumped 16.9 percent to $61.77 after the maker of light-emitting diodes forecast current-quarter earnings below analyst estimates.
- Safeway (SWY) rose 8.2 percent to $35.58 following a report from Reuters late Tuesday that "a handful" of buyout firms, including Cerberus Capital Management, are exploring a deal for all, or part, of the supermarket chain.
- Netflix (NFLX) shares rose 2.4 percent to $330.24 following a large sell-off Tuesday when billionaire investor Carl Icahn cut his stake in the company, taking profits from the huge run up the stock has seen since he bought in last October.
- Shares of C.R. Bard (BCR) jumped 7 percent to $135.80 after the medical device maker's third-quarter results surpassed Wall Street estimates.
- Panera Bread (PNRA) slipped 5.7 percent to $153.15, after the restaurant operator acknowledged that quality has fallen at its stores. It also cut its outlook for the year.
- Repros Therapeutics (RPRX) tumbled 27.7 percent to $17.12 after the company delayed its filing for marketing approval of its testosterone replacement Androxal for several months.
- At 8:30 a.m. Eastern time, the Labor Department releases weekly jobless claims and the Commerce Department releases August data on International Trade.
- At 10 a.m., Freddie Mac releases weekly mortgage rates; the Labor Department releases job openings and labor turnover survey for August; and Markit Economics releases preliminary findings for October from its survey of purchasing managers in the manufacturing sector.