Technology stocks hung back early, taking a hit when Microsoft Corp. gave up 4 percent on the departure of Steven Sinofsky, who was the president of the Windows division.
Facebook, also listed on the Nasdaq exchange, fell 1 percent to $19.86 per share.
In the background, investors were concerned about the European Union praising Greece but holding back on the next $40 billion disbursement of their international rescue package. In the United States, tension is mounting post election about the possibility of Congress and the White House failing to agree on a budget that would prevent the government from running over the so-called fiscal cliff, a Draconian austerity budget many economists believe would trigger a second recession.
By close of trading, the Dow Jones industrial average lost 58.90 points or 0.46 percent to 12,756.18.
The Nasdaq was off 20.37 points or 0.7 percent to 2,883.89.
The Standard and Poor's 500 dropped 5.50 points or 0.4 percent to 1,374.53.
On the New York Stock Exchange, 980 stocks advanced and 2,072 declined on a volume of 3.4 billion shares traded.
The benchmark 10-year treasury was off 2/32, yielding 1.6 percent.
The euro fell to $1.2702 from Monday's $1.2709. Against the yen, the dollar was 79.46 from 79.49 yen.
In Tokyo, the Nikkei 225 index lost 0.18 percent, 15.39 points, to 8,661.05.
In London, the FTSE 100 index recovered lost ground late in the day, adding 18.98 points, 0.33 percent, to 5,786.25.
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