The Dow and S&P 500 fell from record highs as energy stocks moved lower with the price of oil, while the Nasdaq hit a fresh high and US Treasuries strengthened.

Wall Street was mixed In 1.20pm trading in New York, the Dow Jones Industrial Average slipped 0.2 per cent, while, in 1.05pm trading, the Standard & Poor's 500 Index inched 0.1 per cent lower. However, the Nasdaq Composite Index rose 0.3 per cent as of 1.20pm. It touched a record high 5,541.08.

In the Dow, declines in shares of Exxon Mobil and those of Chevron, down 2.1 per cent and 1.2 per cent respectively, outweighed advances in shares of Merck and those of DuPont, recently up 1.15 per cent and 1.2 per cent respectively.

Energy stocks declined with the price of oil amid an increase of US drilling.

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Even so, optimism remains that Wall Street will continue to scale fresh record highs.

"Our view about the Dow [hitting] 20,000 is not a matter of if, but a matter of when," Matt Jones, US head of equity strategy at JP Morgan Private Bank in New York, told Reuters.

Meanwhile, investors flocked to the perceived safety of US Treasuries, pushing yields on the 10-year note four basis points lower to 2.38 per cent.

Shares of VCA soared after Mars said it agreed to buy the pet healthcare provider with about 800 animal hospitals in the US and Canada, for about US$7.7 billion to grow its pet business.

Privately-held Mars will acquire all of the outstanding shares of VCA for US$93 per share, or a total value of about US$9.1 billion including US$1.4 billion in outstanding debt, the McLean, Virginia-based company said in a statement.

Shares of VCA soared 28 per cent to US$90.60 as of noon trading in New York.

"VCA is a leader across pet health care and the opportunity we see together-for pets, pet owners, veterinarians and other pet care providers -is tremendous," Mars Chief Executive Officer Grant Reid said in a statement. "Together, we will be able to provide even greater value, better service and higher quality care to pets and pet owners."

Our view about the Dow [hitting] 20,000 is not a matter of if, but a matter of when.

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In Europe, the Stoxx 600 Index finished the session with a 0.5 per cent drop from the previous close. Germany's DAX Index declined 0.3 per cent, while France's CAC 40 Index slid 0.5 per cent.

However, the UK's FTSE 100 Index rose 0.4 per cent as exporters benefited from a weakening pound, declining more than 1 per cent against the greenback, amid concern about the UK's Brexit strategy following comments by Prime Minister Theresa May.

"The market just takes the most negative view-it assumes that because May is keeping her cards as close as possible to her chest, there is no plan for Brexit and that we're going to 'hard Brexit' out of the EU," BMO Capital Markets currency strategist Stephen Gallo told Reuters.