Updated from 10:03 a.m.
Stocks slipped lower on Wednesday, putting the 20,000 milestone farther out of reach for the Dow Jones Industrial Average.
The Dow dropped 0.12%, while the S&P 500 fell 0.36% and the Nasdaq declined 0.52%.
The dip helped prolong days of speculation about when the Dow might reach 20,000, a historic high. The index of 30 blue-chip stocks stretched to within 19 points of the milestone on Wednesday, before retreating. The Nasdaq slid from a record opening of 5,499.
Crude oil prices started off in positive territory for the fourth consecutive day as investors anticipate lower production in global oil supplies based on an agreement by the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries. West Texas Intermediate crude oil climbed 0.33% to $54.08 a barrel on Wednesday. Brent crude, the global benchmark, traded at $56.39, up 0.53%.
On the economic calendar, the November pending home sales index declined 2.5% from the prior month, according to the National Association of Realtors.
U.S. prosecutors charged three Chinese citizens with hacking into law firms to obtain confidential information on deals involving Intermune (ITMN) and Roche; Intel (INTC) and Altera; and Pitney Bowes (PBI) and BorderFree. The hackers were said to have made $4 million in in profits on trades related to about five companies.