Before the market opened, the Department of Labor reported that applications for unemployment dropped 29,000 last week, more than expected, to 409,000. Bond yields initially rose to 3.24 percent from 3.18 percent, suggesting that bond traders viewed the report as a healthy sign for the economy.
But bond yields dipped back down to 3.20 percent after other reports released at mid-morning raised doubts about the strength of the housing recovery and the overall direction of U.S. growth.
The National Association of Realtors said fewer people purchased previously occupied homes in April. The number of homes sold in foreclosure also declined. And the Conference Board reported that expectations for future economic activity decreased, based on its index of leading indicators. The private research group said the index fell 0.3 percent in April, the first decline since June 2010. The Philadelphia Federal Reserve also reported that its measure of manufacturing activity slumped to its lowest reading since October.
The Dow Jones industrial average lost 11 points, or 0.1 percent, to 12,549 in morning trading. The Standard & Poor's 500 index fell 3, or 0.2 percent, to 1,338. The Nasdaq composite index dipped 8, or 0.3 percent, to 2,807.
Stock indexes posted their first gains in three days Wednesday thanks to widespread gains in energy and materials companies. The stock market has stalled lately because of growing concerns that the U.S. economy is not growing as quickly as originally thought.
Despite the economic concerns, shares of social-networking company LinkedIn Corp. jumped 81 percent to $81.76 on their first day of trading. It is the largest U.S. Internet IPO since Google Inc.
In a sign that the U.S. consumer recovery remains uneven, Big Lots Inc. fell 9 percent to $34.31 after news reports that it decided not to sell itself. The Wall Street Journal said late Wednesday that the company received bids from two private-equity groups that were lower than it had hoped.
Sears Holding Corp. reported softer sales at its Kmart and Sears stores, causing a first-quarter loss of $1.58 per share, worse than analysts expected. The stock fell 3.2 percent to $73.31.