The Dow Jones industrial average fell 0.26 per cent, to end at 17,024.21. The S&P 500 declined 0.39 per cent, to 1,977.65, while the Nasdaq Composite dropped or 0.77 per cent, to 4,451.53.
Cyclical stocks, which are tied to the pace of economic growth, ranked among the weakest of the day. The S&P industrial sector index fell 0.7 per cent. The only sectors finishing the session on the plus side were defensive groups such as utilities, up 0.4 per cent, telecom, up 0.3 per cent and consumer staples, up 0.1 per cent.
Small-cap stocks also underperformed, with the S&P Small-Cap 600 index down 1.5 per cent. The Russell 2000 fell 1.8 per cent, its biggest percentage drop since 25 April.
BioDelivery Sciences International shares surged 8.9 per cent to $13.06 after the company said its experimental pain drug, which it made with Endo International, was found effective in a late-stage trial.
GT Advanced Technologies tumbled 15.6 per cent to $16.50 on heavy volume after UBS removed the company from its US Key Calls list.
Volume was light, with only about 4.81bn shares traded on US exchanges, well below the 5.8bn average in June, according to data from BATS Global Markets.