The S&P 500 edged 0.26% lower to 3,313.19 and the Nasdaq Composite slipped 0.14% to 9,371.02.
North American markets fell initially before ending the day on a flat note, with the S&P/TSX composite index up 0.12 per cent, the Dow Jones industrial average down 0.09 per cent, S&P 500 index up 0.11 per cent and the Nasdaq composite up 0.20 per cent. AP's earlier story follows below.
Stocks recovered most of their steep early losses to finish little changed, after the World Health Organization declined to declare an worldwide virus alert or public health emergency for the coronavirus outbreak in China. Other precautionary measures have been introduced by the Public Health Agency of Canada, including screening processes at airports in Vancouver, Toronto and Montreal to identify passengers travelling from Wuhan for assessment by Canada Border Services Agency officers, including a possible temperature check.
While the ordinary flu kills hundreds of thousands of people each year, uncertainty over how deadly and transmittable the new virus may be has amplified concerns, especially on the cusp of the annual mass travel surrounding lunar New Year, which begins this week.More news: Taylor Swift's 'Miss Americana' Release Date Announced
Materials was also lower despite higher gold prices as First Quantum Minerals Ltd. dropped 4.4 per cent.
In Asia, early gains were erased midsession, with Chinese benchmarks leading losses. Japan's Nikkei 225 and South Korea's Kospi shed 1 per cent. Fewer than 20 deaths have been tallied from the Chinese virus, and the World Health Organization opted against calling the outbreak a public health emergency of global concern.
Technology stocks, which have played a main role in Wall Street's recent record run, rose 0.8 per cent on Wednesday.
Declining issues outnumbered advancers for a 1.59-to-1 ratio on the NYSE and a 1.67-to-1 ratio on the Nasdaq. Australia's S&P ASX/200 shed 0.6% to 7,088.00.More news: Biden Won't Testify in Trump Impeachment Trial
"As far as the market is concerned, the current reaction remains mild and perhaps rightly so given the difficulty to estimate the impact of an evolving syndrome", Jingyi Pan of IG said in a commentary. The World Health Organization (WHO) has convened to determine whether this is a global health emergency.
The March crude contract was down US$1.64 at US$56.74 per barrel and the February natural gas contract was down one cent at US$1.905 per mmBTU.
The key sector dropped on lower crude oil prices after the International Energy Agency said the global market was in surplus, along with concerns that the coronavirus would reduce global demand as travel would decrease.
The Japanese yen gained 0.3% to 109.49 per dollar. The euro weakened after policy makers held interest rates steady and European Central Bank President Christine Lagarde said officials will look into the potential side effects of negative interest rates.More news: ‘Shut up’ - Yastremska coach hits back in Wozniacki feud