First-time claims for unemployment benefits dropped by 2,000 in the week to 386,000, the Labor Department said.
The National Association of Realtors said existing home sales slowed in March. The Federal Reserve's Philadelphia district said gains in mid-Atlantic manufacturing slowed in April.
Quarterly reports showed profits down but ahead of expectations at Bank of America. Finnish mobile phone giant Nokia said it lost $1.2 billion in the quarter due to slower sales. New York Times Co. said its net income rose to $42.1 million for the first quarter, largely due to sales of various assets and rising circulation revenue.
By close of trading, the Dow Jones industrial average lost 68.65 points or 0.53 percent to 12,964.10. The tech-dominated Nasdaq composite index shed 23.89 points or 0.79 percent to 3,007.56. The Standard and Poor's 500 index gave up 8.22 points or 0.59 percent to 1,376.92.
On the New York Stock Exchange, 1,246 shares advanced and 1,766 declined on a volume of 4 billion shares traded.
The 10-year treasury note was up 2/32 to yield 1.971 percent.
The euro rose to $1.3134 from Wednesday's $1.3123. Against the yen, the dollar rose to 81.62 yen from Wednesday's 81.26 yen.
In Tokyo, the Nikkei 225 index lost 0.82 percent, 78.88, to 9,588.38.
In London, the FTSE 100 index dropped 0.01 percent, 0.74, to 5,744.55.
2014: The Year in Music [PHOTOS]