Wall Street's main indexes ended lower on Wednesday as talks between the White House and Republican representatives on raising the U.S. debt ceiling dragged on without a deal.
The lack of progress on raising the U.S. government's $31.4 trillion debt limit ahead of a June 1 deadline, with several rounds of inconclusive talks, has made investors edgier as the risk of a catastrophic default looms larger.
Democratic President Joe Biden and top congressional Republican Kevin McCarthy's negotiators held what the White House called productive talks.
"Up until yesterday, investors have been very optimistic around the U.S. debt ceiling resolution," said Angelo Kourkafas, senior investment strategist at Edward Jones. "But now as we get closer ... to the June 1st X-date, we are seeing some caution again.”
The Dow Jones Industrial Average (.DJI) fell 255.59 points, or 0.77%, to 32,799.92, the S&P 500 (.SPX) lost 30.34 points, or 0.73%, to 4,115.24 and the Nasdaq Composite (.IXIC) dropped 76.08 points, or 0.61%, to 12,484.16.
Ten of the 11 S&P 500 sectors ended in negative territory, with real estate (.SPLRCR) falling the most. Energy (.SPNY) was the lone sector gainer.
The CBOE Volatility Index (.VIX), known as Wall Street's fear gauge, hovered around three-week highs.
Federal Reserve policy was also in focus. Stocks held their declines after the release of minutes from the Fed's May 2-3 meeting, showing that Fed officials "generally agreed" last month that the need for further interest rate increases "had become less certain."
Investors expect the central bank to pause its aggressive rate hiking campaign at its June 13-14 meeting.
Fed Governor Christopher Waller said he is concerned about the lack of progress on inflation, and while skipping an interest rate hike at the central bank's meeting next month may be possible, an end to the hiking campaign is not likely.
“The economy is still doing OK, and there really is not, from the Fed’s perspective, a reason to back away from a tighter monetary policy,” said Paul Nolte, senior wealth advisor and market strategist at Murphy & Sylvest Wealth Management.
In company news, Citigroup Inc (C.N) shares fell 3.1% as the bank scrapped a $7 billion sale of its Mexican consumer unit Banamex and will list it instead.
Agilent Technologies Inc (A.N) shares shed about 6% after the company cut its annual sales and profit forecasts.
Shares of TurboTax-owner Intuit Inc (INTU.O) dropped 7.5% after a disappointing profit forecast.
Declining issues outnumbered advancing ones on the NYSE by a 3.71-to-1 ratio; on Nasdaq, a 2.34-to-1 ratio favored decliners.
The S&P 500 posted no new 52-week highs and 14 new lows; the Nasdaq Composite recorded 38 new highs and 110 new lows.
About 9.7 billion shares changed hands in U.S. exchanges, compared with the 10.5 billion daily average over the last 20 sessions.