The Bank of England said it expects the country's economy to stagnate this year. Only three months earlier, in its previous quarterly inflation report, the BOE had forecast annual growth of 0.8 percent. The French central bank said it expects France's economy to contract in the third quarter, the second pullback in a row.
The Dow Jones industrial average fell three points, to 13,165 in the first 45 minutes of trading. The Dow rose over the past three days.
The Standard & Poor's 500 index fell two to 1,399. The Nasdaq composite index fell 5 to 3,010.
Concerns about Europe overshadowed a mixed set of earnings and sales reports:
— Shares of Priceline.com got about $100 cheaper. The discount travel website plunged after warning investors late Tuesday that its third-quarter revenue and income would come in far below anlaysts' forecasts because of the deepening malaise in the European economy. Priceline's stock sank $98.26 to $581.54, a loss of 15 percent — the biggest decline in the S&P 500 index.
— Macy's rose $1.48, or 4 percent to $38.48 after the company said its net income in the second quarter rose 16 percent and beat analysts' estimates.
— Alpha Natural Resources rose 13 cents, or 2 percent, to $7.03 despite reporting a wider net loss in the second quarter. The coal producer is struggling to compete with cheap natural gas.
— Ralph Lauren fell $5.42, or 4 percent, to $147.61 after the company forecast a revenue decline in the current quarter and cautioned that the weak global economy might reduce spending on its clothes and housewares.
— McDonalds fell $2.05, or 2 percent, to $86.95 after the company said a key revenue figure came in flat in July as the weakening global economy took a toll on customers of the world's biggest burger chain.
— Dean Foods soared $4.25, or 34 percent, to $16.67 after the company posted a second-quarter profit, raised its full-year forecast and announced the initial public offering of a dairy subsidiary that makes Horizon Organic milk and Land O' Lakes butter. It was the biggest percentage gain of any stock in the S&P 500.
Stocks were on track for their first losing day this week. On Tuesday, the S&P 500 passed 1,400 for the first time in three months. The Nasdaq closed above 3,000 for the first time since early May.