The Dow posted its first loss in five days as falling energy stocks and an escalation in the trade war between the U.S. and China weighed on sentiment.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell about 0.18%. The S&P 500 fell 0.03%, while the Nasdaq Composite rose about 0.06%.
The tit-for-tat trade war between the U.S. and China came to fore, denting investor appetite for risker assets such as stocks, as both countries showed a willingness to follow through with additional tariffs.
China announced Wednesday morning that it will impose a 25% levy on $16 billion worth of U.S. goods, including large passenger vehicles, motorcycles and crude.
The announcement from China comes after the Trump administration followed through with a 25% tariff on an additional $16 billion of Chinese goods, including semiconductors, rail equipment and some motorcycles.
The latest volley of American and Chinese tariffs takes the total of targeted goods to $50 billion on each side and are slated to come into effect on Aug. 23.
Falling energy stocks also held back performance following a rout in oil markets on the back of data showing U.S. oil supplies fell by less than expected, while the U.S.-China trade spat also weighed on sentiment.
On the New York Mercantile Exchange crude futures for September fell 3.2% to settle at $66.94 a barrel.
Mixed earnings, meanwhile, did little to lift the mood on equities. CVS Health (NYSE:CVS) stock surged after reporting above-consensus earnings on Wednesday, while Walt Disney (NYSE:DIS) and Snap (NYSE:SNAP) stocks tumbled after both reports failed to impress investors.
The slew of mostly upbeat corporate earnings in the quarter has helped US stocks shrug off the ongoing tit-for-tat U.S.-China trade war so far, but momentum could wane as the earnings season draws to a close and the market enters the "dog days of summer," said Terry Sandven, chief equity strategist at US Bank.
U.S. stocks will likely resume upside momentum if either the current trend of bullish earnings extends into the third quarter or the trade war between the U.S. and China abates, Sandven added.
"Better-than-expected third quarter results in mid-October or a resolution to trade tensions with China would be among catalysts warranting further upside," he said.
In corporate news, Tesla (NASDAQ:TSLA) CEO Elon Musk's decision to announce on Twitter Tuesday that he was considering taking the company private has reportedly attracted inquiries from the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commissions.
Top Dow Gainers and Losers Today:
McDonald’s (NYSE:MCD), Pfizer (NYSE:PFE) and American Express (NYSE:AXP) were among the top Dow gainers for the session.
Walt Disney (NYSE:DIS), Caterpillar (NYSE:CAT) and Chevron (NYSE:CVX) were among the worst Dow performers of the session.