Financial companies led stocks lower after a ratings shake-up on the sector. Bank of America dropped 3%, the most among blue chips.
Nervousness about European debt also weighed on financials. European leaders gathered in Brussels amid talk of requirements for greater fiscal discipline among members. Also, there has been a lack of progress on a Greek debt-restructuring deal.
In corporate news, Gannett reported a 33% decline in profit as persistent advertising declines at its newspapers and lower television revenue more than offset growth in the publisher's digital businesses. Shares fell 6.9%.
Staples was also near the bottom of the S&P 500 day. Shares fell 4.9% after an analysis cut its rating on the company.