Stocks fell on Monday after a disappointing report on factory orders, retreating from gains in the prior session that left the S&P 500 at a five-year high and the Dow above 14,000.
Investors also grew wary on political uncertainty in the euro zone, leading to a sharp rise in Spanish government bond yields.
Chevron and Wal-Mart were among the biggest drags on the Dow after analyst downgrades.
"S&P technicals are at overbought levels, and risk-off harbingers, such as Spanish 10-year yields, which are much more difficult for central bankers to tame, have bounced off recent lows," said Peter Cecchini, managing director at New York-based Cantor Fitzgerald & Co.
Spanish and Italian bond yields rose, renewing worries about the euro zone's sovereign debt crisis. Spain's prime minister faced calls to resign over a corruption scandal, while a probe of alleged misconduct involving an Italian bank was expected to widen three weeks before a national election.
The benchmark S&P 500 rose on Friday, leaving it roughly 60 points away from its all-time intraday high of 1,576.09, while the Dow's march above 14,000 was the highest for the index since October 2007.
The S&P index .SPX is up 5.5 percent for the year, with nearly half of the gains coming after U.S. legislators temporarily sidestepped the "fiscal cliff" of automatic tax increases and spending cuts.
Data from the Commerce Department showed overall factory orders rose 1.8 percent in December, below economists' expectations. The report said capital goods orders outside of the defense and aircraft industries, edged 0.3 percent lower. The category is seen as a gauge of U.S. business investment plans.
Economic data has pointed to a modest U.S. recovery, but the data have not been strong enough to upset investor expectations the Federal Reserve will continue its stimulus policy that has buoyed stocks.
The Dow Jones industrial average .DJI was down 117.19 points, or 0.84 percent, at 13,892.60. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index .SPX was down 13.72 points, or 0.91 percent, at 1,499.45. The Nasdaq Composite Index .IXIC was down 37.77 points, or 1.19 percent, at 3,141.33.
The CBOE Volatility index VIX .VIX, Wall Street's so-called fear gauge, jumped more than 10 percent to 14.48 by afternoon trade.
Chevron Corp (CVX.N) dipped 1 percent to $115.34 after UBS cut its rating to neutral, while Wal-Mart Stores Inc (WMT.N) shed 1.5 percent to $69.46 after JP Morgan lowered its rating on the world's largest retailer and reduced its price target.
Oracle Corp (ORCL.O) lost 2.6 percent to $35.28 after the company agreed to buy network gear maker Acme Packet Inc (APKT.O) for about $1.9 billion. Acme Packet shares surged 22 percent to $29.20.
Shares of household products company Clorox (CLX.N) rose 1.3 percent to $80.23 after quarterly profit beat analysts' estimates as a severe flu season boosted sales of disinfecting wipes.
Earnings are due from Anadarko Petroleum Corp (APC.N) and Yum! Brands Inc (YUM.N), owner of fast-food chains, after the closing bell.
According to Thomson Reuters data, of the 256 companies in the S&P 500 that have reported earnings through Monday morning, 68.4 percent have reported earnings above analyst expectations compared with the 62 percent average since 1994 and the 65 percent average over the past four quarters.
S&P 500 fourth-quarter earnings are expected to rise 4.4 percent, according to the data. That estimate is above the 1.9 percent forecast at the start of earnings season, but well below the 9.9 percent fourth-quarter earnings forecast on October 1.
Herbalife Ltd (HLF.N) slumped 3 percent to $34.03 after the New York Post newspaper reported the seller of weight loss products is facing a probe by the Federal Trade Commission.