The market initially got a boost after a report showed consumer confidence was better than economists expected. But investors remained cautious, especially since markets for months have been rattled by the latest developments related to the sovereign debt crisis.
U.S. home prices fell in September from a month earlier according to Standard & Poor's Case-Shiller home-price indexes. The housing market remains sluggish despite soft prices and interest rates that have been hovering around historic lows.
Bank of America droped 3.2%, to 5.08, its lowest level since March 2009. The stock fell further in after-hours trading after Standard & Poor's cut the bank's credit rating. The ratings firm also downgraded dozens of other large financial institutions.
AMR, the parent company of American Airlines, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. American Airlines appears set for another full-year loss in 2011. AMR plunged 84%, to 26 cents.
Crude oil closed higher to $99.798.21 a barrel, after Iranian students stormed the British embassy in Tehran, escalating worries.