Wall Street moved lower as slides in Nike and Apple shares outweighed a gain in energy stocks.
The latest US claims data pointed to signs strength in the labour market, hot on the heels of disappointing economic data that have cooled expectations for a Federal Reserve interest rate hike this month.
A Labor Department report showed that initial claims for state unemployment benefits unexpectedly fell, declining 4,000 to a seasonally adjusted 259,000 for the week ended September 3.
The Federal Open Market Committee begins its next two-day meeting on September 20. While bets on whether the Fed will lift rates this month have fluctuated, a September increase would catch most investors offside.
In 3pm trading in New York, the Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 0.2 per cent, while the Nasdaq Composite Index slipped 0.2 per cent. In 2.45pm trading, the Standard & Poor's 500 Index declined 0.2 per cent.
"Against the backdrop of some disappointing data over the past month or two, the uncertainty of the election, uncertainty regarding the Fed ... we're positioned rather defensively trying to preserve capital until we get some visibility," Phil Orlando, chief equity market strategist, at Federated Investors in New York, told Reuters.
The Dow fell as slides in shares of Nike and those of Apple, both recently down 2.4 per cent, outweighed gains in shares of Chevron and those of Exxon Mobil, last up 1.4 per cent and 1.2 per cent respectively.
Energy stocks rose with the price of oil, after Energy Information Administration data showing the biggest drop in US crude inventories in 17 years.
Even so, shares of Tractor Supply, which bills itself as the largest rural lifestyle retail store chain in the US, plunged after the company downgraded its fiscal 2016 earnings estimates because of a drop in sales in oil-producing regions.
"While the retail environment has become more challenging over the past several months, the most pronounced decreases in our traffic and sales are in energy and agricultural communities," Greg Sandfort, Tractor Supply's chief executive officer, said in a statement.
"With our customers generally being fiscally conservative, we believe many of them have responded to the economic uncertainty by reducing their purchasing patterns in some of our key geographic regions," Sandfort noted.
The stock traded 16.9 per cent lower as of 1.34pm in New York.
In Europe, the Stoxx 600 Index ended the session with a decline of 0.3 per cent from the previous close after the European Central Bank failed to offer an extension of its quantitative easing program and kept its key interest rate on hold. France's CAC 40 index decreased 0.3 per cent, while Germany's DAX index dropped 0.7 per cent.
Against the backdrop of some disappointing data over the past month or two, the uncertainty of the election, uncertainty regarding the Fed ... we're positioned rather defensively trying to preserve capital until we get some visibility.
ECB President Mario Draghi said policy makers had not discussed prolonging the QE program.
"Draghi doesn't sound like a central banker who's in any hurry to ease further," Tim Graf, head of European macro strategy at State Street in London, told Bloomberg.
His stance "fits in with the G-20 statements about using all actors to support growth, including the fiscal side. Taking ever-easier monetary policy for granted is becoming less valid."
The UK's FTSE 100 Index rose 0.2 per cent.