Top military brass and President Trump are being sued by five US military members that want to keep Trump's transgender ban from becoming a reality - "in any capacity". The U.S. and North Korea exchanged verbal threats this week with President Donald Trump warning North Korea that any hostile action would be met with "fire and fury" and Pyongyang threatened to strike Guam, a U.S. territory.
In Europe, Germany's DAX rose 0.3 percent, while France's CAC 40 added 0.2 percent.
The CBOE Volatility Index, the most widely followed barometer of expected near-term stock market volatility, was up as much as 12.63 points, its highest in more than a month.
The Nasdaq Composite was down 16.88 points, or 0.26 percent, at 6,353.58.
Gold was the big victor Wednesday as stocks pared back to moderate losses and Walt Disney (DIS) dragged on the Dow, while Netflix (NFLX) and Priceline Group (PCLN) hindered the Nasdaq and retailers took some brutal hits after reporting second-quarter results.
Energy stocks fell along with the price of crude oil.More news: 32% of Americans approve of Trump's handling of healthcare
The Standard & Poor's 500 index fell less than a point to 2,474, making up much of the ground it lost earlier.
"Equity markets have also come under pressure, with the geopolitics bringing the run into record highs on Wall Street to an end", Richard Perry, market analyst at Hantec Markets, said in a note, as quoted by MarketWatch. The Russell 2000 index of smaller-company stocks gave up 4.02 points, or 0.3 percent, to 1,410.15.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 63.37 points, or 0.29 percent, to 22,021.97. But Michael said the overall market was still expected to saw-tooth its way higher due in part to a batch of better-than-expected earnings and low interest rates, despite the shift toward raising rates.
Travel website operator Priceline fell 7.26 percent, weighing the most on the S&P and the Nasdaq, following a disappointing forecast.
Trump's comments also sparked a late afternoon selling on Tuesday, with the Dow ending a nine-day streak of closing records. Netflix was down 1.8 percent. The FTSE 100 index of leading British shares declined 0.6 percent.
US crude shed 18 cents to $48.99 a barrel, while Brent crude fell 25 cents a barrel at $51.89 a barrel. Copper fell 2 cents to $2.93 a pound.