NEW YORK, New York - U.S. stocks were on the defensive on Wednesday as profit-takers took advantage of the lofty heights of the major stock indices, with the Dow Jones having surpassed the crucial technical milestone of 30,000 a day earlier.
An unexpected rise in jobless claims, the second week running, also discouraged investors.
"Days like we're seeing today on the heels of strong growth is a response to the ebb and flow of the market," Matthew Keator, managing partner in the Keator Group, a wealth management firm in Lenox, Massachusetts told the Reuters Thomson news agency Wednesday. "It's natural to see some profit-taking as people look at valuations and take money off the table."
Despite the sell-off in the industrials, technology stocks held their ground, with the Nasdaq Composite actually gaining a modest 57.62 points or 0.48 percent to close at 12,094.40.
The Dow Jones closed well below the 30,000 level, losing 173.77 points or 0.58 percent to close 29,877.47.
The Standard and Poor's 500 shed just 5.76 points or 0.16 percent to 3,629.65.
The U.S. dollar continued its slide with the currency pushing through some major technical levels. The euro moved above 1.1900 and was consolidating above this level, last being quoted around the New York close at 1.1918. The British pound zoomed up to 1.3382. The Japanese yen firmed to 104.45. The Swiss franc rallied to 0.9082.
The Canadian dollar appreciated to 1.3001. The Australian and New Zealand dollars were sharply higher at 0.7367 and 0.7009 respectively.
In London, the FTSE 100 declined 0.64 percent. The German Dax sagged only slightly, losing 0.02 percent. The Paris-based CAC 40 dropped 0.23 percent.
On Asian markets, the Nikkei 225 in Japan, was ahead 131.27 points or 0.26 percent at 26,296.86.
The Australian All Ordinaries rose 32.70 points or 0.48 percent to 6,888.20.
The Hong Kong benchmark index, the Hang Seng, rallied by 81.55 points or 0.31 percent to 26,669.95.
China's Shanghai Composite lost 40.50 points or 1.19 percent to 3,362.33.