The Dow Jones industrial average was down 48 points, or 0.3 per cent, at 16,414 as of noon (1700 GMT) Thursday.
The Standard & Poor's 500 index fell four points, or 0.2 per cent, to 1,833. The Nasdaq composite lost 16 points, or 0.4 per cent, to 4,149.
Retailers Bed Bath & Beyond and Family Dollar plunged after cutting their earnings forecasts following a disappointing holiday season. They were the biggest decliners in the S&P 500.
The bleak outlooks outweighed some encouraging news on the job market. The number of Americans seeking unemployment benefits fell by 15,000 last week, more than economists were expecting.