Wall Street slid for a third day amid comments from Cleveland Fed President Sandra Pianalto that the US jobs market had shown "meaningful improvement".
In late afternoon trading in New York, the Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 0.37 per cent, the Standard & Poor's 500 Index dropped 0.42 per cent and the Nasdaq Composite Index shed 0.40 per cent. Shares of Home Depot, down 1.8 per cent, Walt Disney, down 1.6 per cent, and International Business Machines, down 1.5 per cent, paced the decline in the Dow.
"Employment growth has been stronger than I was expecting, and the unemployment rate today is more than half a per cent lower than I projected it to be last September," Pianalto said in a speech in Cleveland, Ohio, today. "In light of this progress, and if the labour market remains on the stronger path that it has followed since last fall, then I would be prepared to scale back the monthly pace of asset purchases."
Earlier this earlier this week, Dallas Fed President Richard Fisher, Chicago Fed President Charles Evans and Atlanta Fed President Dennis Lockhart all separately said the central bank could begin easing its bond-buying program as early as next month.
"We still like the outlook for the broad equity market, but near term we're probably in a trading range pattern until we get greater clarity as to what happens with quantitative easing," Terry Sandven, chief equity strategist at US Bank Wealth Management in Minneapolis, told Bloomberg News.
Walt Disney's quarterly earnings were hurt by the "The Lone Ranger," which flopped at the box office.
Shares of Ralph Lauren sank after the company reported an outlook that failed to satisfy investors.
Through Wednesday morning, of the 434 companies in the S&P 500 that had reported earnings, Thomson Reuters data showed that 66.8 per cent topped analysts' expectations, while 54.1 per cent have reported revenue above estimates.
In Europe, the Stoxx 600 Index ended the day with a 0.2 per cent decline from the previous close, while Germany's DAX weakened 0.5 per cent. France's CAC 40, however, gained 0.2 per cent.
In the UK, Bank of England policy makers provided a message that bolstered concern the nation's economic recovery might take longer than anticipated, pushing the FTSE 100 Index 1.4 per cent lower and the nation's bond yields higher.
"The Committee intends at a minimum to maintain the current highly stimulative stance of monetary policy until economic slack has been substantially reduced, provided this does not entail material risks to either price stability or financial stability," BOE policy makers said in statement.
"In particular, the [Committee] intends not to raise Bank Rate from its current level of 0.5 per cent at least until the Labour Force Survey headline measure of the unemployment rate has fallen to a threshold of 7 per cent, subject to the conditions below."
The BOE expects the unemployment rate, at 7.8 per cent in the quarter through May, will remain above 7 per cent at least until the third quarter of 2016.
Tomorrow, it's the Bank of Japan's turn to offer its latest view on monetary policy.