Wall Street moved lower as two more Federal Reserve officials signalled they believe the central bank should raise interest rates a day before a widely-anticipated speech by Fed Chair Janet Yellen in Jackson Hole, Wyoming.

"I think it's time to move," Kansas City Fed President Esther George told Bloomberg. She isn't alone.

"The case is strengthening" for a rate increase, Dallas Fed President Robert Kaplan told CNBC. "And you should conclude from that in the not-too-distant future."

Wall Street slipped. In 2.20pm trading in New York, the Dow Jones Industrial Average dipped 0.2 per cent, while the Nasdaq Composite Index retreated 0.1 per cent. In 2.05pm trading, the Standard & Poor's 500 Index gave up 0.1 per cent.


"You know that Janet Yellen is going to come out and say something, and you have no idea what," Ben Kumar, an investment manager at Seven Investment Management in London, told Bloomberg. "Your sensible move would be to be a bit nervous. So there seems to be some sensible profit taking, or moving to cash, or just sitting on the sidelines."

The Dow moved lower as declines in shares of Nike and Wal-Mart, recently 1.8 per cent and 1.5 per cent weaker respectively, outweighed advances in shares of Cisco and those of Travelers, up 0.6 per cent and 0.5 per cent respectively.

To be sure, some say the US central bank won't be in a rush to push the target rate higher.

"There is healthy scepticism about the Fed raising rates ahead of Yellen's comments," Adam Sarhan, chief executive officer at Sarhan Capital, told Reuters.

"Throughout this year they flirt with the idea of a rate hike, but when push comes to shove, they back off and kick the can down the road."

Even so, the latest economic data offered fresh signs of strength, indeed.

A Commerce Department report showed new orders for durable goods rose a seasonally adjusted 4.4 per cent in July, exceeding economists' expectations, while a Labor Department report showed a surprise drop in the number of weekly jobless claims, falling by 1,000 to 261,000 in the week ended August 20.

Throughout this year they flirt with the idea of a rate hike, but when push comes to shove, they back off and kick the can down the road.


"This kind of data are consistent with what the Fed is looking for in terms of the labour market and economic growth," Gus Faucher, senior economist at PNC Financial Services Group, told Reuters. "If we get more data like this, that will suggest we are likely to see an interest rate increase, most likely in December."

In Europe, the Stoxx 600 Index finished the session with a 0.8 per cent decline from the previous close. The UK's FTSE 100 index shed 0.3 per cent, France's CAC 40 index fell 0.7 per cent and Germany's DAX index dropped 0.9 per cent.

A report from Germany's Ifo institute showed business sentiment in the euro-zone's biggest economy unexpectedly fell, with the business climate index sliding to 106.2 in August, down from 108.3 in July.