Stocks ended the day Wednesday with another slide that pulled indexes away from record highs. The drop was modest but broad -- nine of the 10 sectors in the Standard & Poor's 500 index lost ground.
At the close on Wall Street, the Dow Jones industrial average fell 106.5 points, or about 0.6 percent, at 18,097. The Standard & Poor's 500 index lost 9.3 points, or about 0.4 percent, to 2,098.5. The Nasdaq composite declined 12.8 points, or about 0.3 percent, to 4,967.1.
However benchmark U.S. crude oil rose $1.01 to close at $51.53 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.
TAKING A BREATHER: Given the market's recent run, it's only natural for investors to turn cautious, said Terry Sandven, senior equity strategist at U.S. Bank Wealth Management. On Monday, the S&P 500 reached an all-time high while the Nasdaq crossed the 5,000 mark for the first time in nearly 15 years.
"We're in wait-and-see mode," Sandven said. "Prices are definitely stretched, especially when earnings expectations are being set lower."
Bloomberg News reported that the S&P 500 rose to fresh records four times in February, and its 2.4 percent gain this year trails all but two of the 24 developed markets. The measure is trading near the highest valuation in five years. The Dow in January posted its best month in two years.
MELTING, MELTING: Alcoa's stock sank 4 percent following news that analysts at Bank of America cut their ratings on the aluminum giant. BofA's analysts expect prices for aluminum to lose strength as China increases its exports. Alcoa lost 59 cents to $14.59.
JOBS: A survey showed U.S. businesses added more than 200,000 people to their payrolls in February, the latest sign that strong hiring should boost the economy this year. ADP, a New Jersey-based company that handles payrolls, said private employers hired 212,000 workers last month. The survey comes just before the government's release of its monthly employment report on Friday. Economists forecast that the economy added 240,000 jobs last month and the unemployment rate slipped to 5.6 percent from 5.7 percent.
ANALYST'S TAKE: The U.S. economy appears steady despite reports out earlier this week showing declines in construction spending and car sales, according to Jim O'Sullivan of High-Frequency Economics. "We expect another fairly strong rise in payrolls and a drop in the unemployment rate in the February employment report on Friday," said O'Sullivan, in a report to clients.