Investors stayed on the sidelines ahead of corporate earnings news and December's factory orders report from the Commerce Department. The Dow lost 58 points to 12,685 while Nasdaq fell 13 points to 2400.
On the upside
A Barron's article offered positive coverage of Dynegy (NYSE: DYN) as a possible beneficiary of higher demand for electric power.
Overnight gains in the Asian markets boosted China Life Insurance (NYSE: LFC) and other large cap companies.
Drug maker Schering-Plough (NYSE: SGP) received FDA approval for the use of its daily asthma inhaler on children ages 4 to 11. Asmanex is already approved at a higher dose for older children and adults.
On the downside
Health insurer Humana (NYSE: HUM) posted higher earnings, but revenue results missed expectations. Average premiums rose, but membership in the company's standalone Medicare prescription plans declined slightly from year-ago levels.
Analysts reassessed the financial services sector and lowered their opinions of credit card services providers. Shares of American Express (NYSE: AXP) and Discover Financial (NYSE: DFS) fell in early trading.
Charming Shoppes (Nasdaq: CHRS) issued a statement about the fatal shootings at its Tinley Park, Illinois Lane Bryant store and offered a reward.
In the broad market, declining issues outpaced advancers by a margin of nearly 2 to 1 on the NYSE and by more than 3 to 2 on Nasdaq. The Russell 2000 which tracks small cap stocks lost 7 ponts to 723.