Stocks on both sides of the Atlantic slid amid disappointing results from companies including 3M and Caterpillar.
Also hurting sentiment was a report showing US consumer confidence weakened more than expected. And oil fell.
"We've had some mixed earnings today and the market right now is digesting earnings and positioning itself ahead of the Fed[eral Reserve] meeting next week," Jeff Zipper, managing director for investments at Private Client Reserve at US Bank in Palm Beach, Florida, told Reuters.
In 2.10pm trading in New York, the Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 0.2 per cent, while the Nasdaq Composite Index slid 0.4 per cent. In 1.54pm trading, the Standard & Poor's 500 Index declined 0.2 per cent.
The Dow moved lower as declines in shares of 3M and those of Home Depot, recently down 2.9 per cent and 2.8 per cent respectively, outweighed gains in shares of Procter & Gamble and those of United Technologies, recently trading 4.1 per cent and 2.4 per cent higher respectively.
3M lowered its outlook for 2016 sales and earnings.
Shares of Caterpillar slid, down 2.2 per cent recently, after the world's No. 1 maker of mining and construction equipment, downgraded its full-year sales and profit outlook because of a "challenged environment."
The company now expects sales of US$39 billion, down from a previous estimate for between US$40 billion and US$40.5 billion, it said in a statement. Caterpillar said its expects 2017 sales and revenues "will not be significantly different than 2016."
"While we are seeing early signals of improvement in some areas, we continue to face a number of challenges," CEO Doug Oberhelman said in the statement.
Shares of Whirlpool sank, down 12.1 per cent as of 2.06pm in New York, after the company downgraded its full-year profit outlook.
Apple edged higher ahead of the release of its fiscal fourth quarter results after the closing bell. While the iPhone maker is forecast to report lower annual sales, the decline may prove less than some analysts have been expecting in part because of rival Samsung's recent struggles.
We've had some mixed earnings today and the market right now is digesting earnings and positioning itself ahead of the Fed[eral Reserve] meeting next week.
Meanwhile, a Conference Board report showed its index of consumer confidence dropped to 98.6 in October from 103.5 in September.
To be sure, Procter & Gamble and United Technologies were among companies reporting better-than-expected results.
"We're getting some good earnings, but it's still been a fairly mixed picture," Matt Maley, an equity strategist at Miller Tabak & Co in New York, told Bloomberg.
In Europe, the Stoxx 600 Index finished the session with a 0.4 per cent drop from the previous close amid disappointing results from drugmaker Novartis. Germany's DAX Index inched 0.04 per cent lower, while France's CAC 40 Index fell 0.3 per cent.
Bucking the trend, the UK's FTSE 100 Index rose 0.5 per cent.