The S&P 500 ended lower on Thursday after a rise in weekly jobless claims compounded worries about a stalling economic recovery and fading hopes for more fiscal aid before the election.
The number of Americans filing new claims for jobless benefits rose to a two-month high last week, stoking fears the Covid-19 pandemic was inflicting lasting damage to the labour market.
"Going into the fall it will be difficult for unemployment to make a lot of positive headway because of the lack of stimulus," said Christopher Grisanti, chief equity strategist at MAI Capital Management in Cleveland.
US President Donald Trump said he is willing to raise his offer of US$1.8 trillion for a Covid-19 relief deal with Democrats in Congress, but the idea was shot down by his fellow Republican, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.
The CBOE volatility index, investors' fear gauge, hit a one-week high and Wall Street's indexes dipped for the third straight day. The S&P 500 is down about 3 percent from its September 2 record high close.
With less than 20 days until the November 3 election, Trump and Democratic challenger Joe Biden are set to hold dueling prime-time town halls on Thursday instead of their second presidential debate, which was canceled after Trump declined to take part in a virtual match-up.
Supporting the Dow Jones Industrial Average, Walgreens Boots Alliance Inc surged 4.8 percent as the drugstore chain forecast single-digit profit growth in 2021 after reporting a better-than-expected fourth-quarter profit.
Focus is also on the quarterly results for corporate America, with expectations for third-quarter earnings improving to an 19 percent drop from a 25 percent tumble forecast on July 1, according to Refinitiv IBES data.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 0.07 percent to end at 28,494 points, while the S&P 500 lost 0.15 percent to 3,483.
The Nasdaq Composite dropped 0.47 percent to 11,714.
Morgan Stanley rose 1.3 percent after it beat third-quarter profit estimates, winding up mixed results from major US lenders. (Reuters)