Stocks pulled back after the Federal Reserve kept its bond-buying program steady but offered a mixed review of the economy.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average gave up 44 points, or 0.3%, to 13910.42, the Standard & Poor's 500-stock index lost 5.88 points, or 0.4%, to 1501.96, and the Nasdaq Composite Index declined 11.35 points, or 0.4%, to 3142.31.
Leading the declines were industrial and energy shares. Utilities managed to cling to small gains, making it the only one of the 10 S&P 500 sectors to end in positive territory.
The pullback came after Fed officials noted in their latest announcement that economic activity had "paused in recent months," largely because of weather and temporary factors, but said they expected growth would continue at a "moderate pace" and that the jobs market would improve.
Critically for some market watchers, the central bank's policy committee said it would continue purchasing $85 billion each month of long-term Treasurys and mortgage-backed securities.
For the larger economy, though, doubts remained about the Fed's ability to juice the economy, a challenge that was underscored by data showing U.S. gross domestic product declined 0.1% in the fourth quarter, rather than the 1% growth that economists had expected. The reading relies on some estimates and is often subject to revisions. The report also showed that personal consumption and business investment both rose.
"A lot of people are coalescing around this view that monetary policy can't do this alone, without fiscal policy," said Sam Stewart, chairman of Salt Lake City-based Wasatch Advisors, which manages $13.4 billion in assets. "The Fed isn't as in control as many would like to believe."
A reading on job growth came in slightly above expectations ahead of Friday's government jobs report. The previous month's reading was revised down, however.
European markets finished the day mostly lower. The Stoxx Europe 600 fell 0.6%, as weak Spanish data offset improving euro-zone confidence readings. Spain's IBEX 35 index declined 0.8% after fourth-quarter GDP fell from the previous quarter. Italy's FTSE MIB index dropped 3.4%.
Asian markets were broadly higher, with Japan reporting better-than-expected retail-sales data. Japan's Nikkei Stock Average surged 2.3% to close at its highest level since April 2010.
Also providing a boost to exporters, the yen fell to a 2Â½-year low against the dollar. The dollar lost ground against the euro, as the common currency pushed to a 14-month high.
Crude-oil prices inched up 0.4%, to $97.94 a barrel, while gold gained 1.2%, to $1,679.90 a troy ounce. Demand for Treasurys slipped, pushing the yield on the 10-year note up to 2.009%.
In other corporate news, Amazon.com (AMZN)
Chesapeake Energy (CHK)
The Dow's rise this month with one trading day left, a signal it may end 2013 in the black.
Research In Motion (RIMM),
Ventrus Biosciences (VTUS)