U.S. stocks slipped on Thursday led by falls in financial shares and following weak Chinese economic data but a late-day rebound in oil prices limited the day's decline.
Financials, which have been under pressure following negative news on Deutsche Bank and Wells Fargo , were down ahead of quarterly results due Friday from Wells Fargo, JPMorgan Chase and Citigroup . The S&P financial index fell 1.1 percent.
Reviving concerns about the health of the world's second-largest economy, data showed China's exports fell 10 percent in September, far worse than markets had expected, while imports unexpectedly shrank.
Stocks pared losses late along with energy shares. Oil prices rebounded to end higher. A U.S. government report of larger-than-expected draws in diesel and gasoline helped prices rebound. The S&P energy index ended down 0.7 percent.
"The catalyst, I think, to start getting some trades in (late) was oil prices stabilizing, and just the fact that short term we were oversold," said Bucky Hellwig, senior vice president at BB&T Wealth Management in Birmingham, Alabama.
Uncertainty over the U.S. presidential race as the Nov. 8 vote looms and the chance for extra bank regulation could be adding to weight for financials, he said.
The Dow Jones industrial average was down 45.26 points, or 0.25 percent, to 18,098.94, the S&P 500 lost 6.63 points, or 0.31 percent, to 2,132.55 and the Nasdaq Composite dropped 25.69 points, or 0.49 percent, to 5,213.33.
The Dow recovered from an intraday low of 17,959.95.
Investors have been worried about market valuations, especially with third-quarter profits of S&P 500 companies expected to have fallen about 0.7 percent, according to Thomson Reuters data.
Some investors hope that enough companies will beat analysts' expectations to allow S&P 500 companies to end the earnings period with a slight gain.
The S&P 500 index is trading at 17 times forward earnings, compared with its 10-year median of 14.7, according to StarMine data.
The Federal Reserve on Wednesday released the minutes of its last interest rate-setting meeting that showed several policymakers felt a move was warranted "relatively soon" if the U.S. economy continued to strengthen.
Declining issues outnumbered advancing ones on the NYSE by a 2.04-to-1 ratio; on Nasdaq, a 2.55-to-1 ratio favoured decliners.
The S&P 500 posted no new 52-week highs and six new lows; the Nasdaq Composite recorded 24 new highs and 91 new lows.
About 6.7 billion shares changed hands on U.S. exchanges, compared with the 6.8 billion daily average for the past 20 trading days, according to Thomson Reuters data.