Wall Street closes lower

US stocks retreat as dearth of major economic reports cause investors to pause.

United States stocks closed sharply lower, retreating from last week's records as investors paused to assess recent US economic data while shrugging off uncertainties surrounding Ukraine.

At the closing bell, the Dow Jones Industrial Average slipped 67.43 points, or 0.41%, to 16,351.25. 

The S&P 500 index eased 9.54 points, or 0.51%, to 1,867.63 while the Nasdaq Composite Index fell 27.26, or 0.63%, to 4,307.19. 

The S&P 500 has gained 0.8% so far in March, after running up 4.3 per cent in February, and is hovering around Friday's record closing high of 1878.04. Meanwhile, the Dow was 1.1% away from its December 31 record high of 16576.66.

William Lynch, director of investment at Hinsdale Associates, said investors saw little reason to make big bets either way given the session's dearth of major economic reports.

"Investors really don't have a handle on whether or not this economy is getting stronger or weaker and how that might affect first-quarter earnings," Mr Lynch said.

"Investors are taking a wait-and-see approach."

Peter Cardillo, chief market economist at Rockwell Global Capital, said the market drifted lower in the absence of a catalyst to lift stocks and overtake "psychological resistance" to new records.

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