THE QUOTE: "Risk-averse sentiment is dominating global equities markets, and USA indices have retraced from record levels over the last two days. The typical textbook trade is that investors rush for safe haven, hence we have experienced a bounce for the gold price".
"Geopolitics splashed cold water on the markets", said J.J. Kinahan, chief strategist at TD Ameritrade.
Disney dropped 3.9 percent, its biggest single-day loss in more than a year, after the media giant reported a weak quarter and said it would pull its movies from Netflix and start two of its own video streaming services.
Eight of the 11 major S&P sectors were lower, with the consumer discretionary index's 0.59 percent fall leading the decliners.
JPMorgan Chase rose 1.1 percent and Texas Instruments rose 1.6 percent.
Travel website operator Priceline fell 6.54 percent, while travel-review website operator TripAdvisor was down 7.51 percent after both the companies issued disappointing forecasts. The Russell 2000 index of smaller-company stocks gave up 13.20 points, or 0.9 percent, to 1,396.95.
The Russell 2000 is down 2.17 points, or 0.2 percent.
Nevertheless, traditional safe havens jumped, with the benchmark 10-year USA note yield hitting its lowest level since June 28 and gold futures surging more than 1 percent. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note held steady at 2.26 percent.
Markets were also lower in Europe and Asia.
Japan's Nikkei had been down more than 1% overnight while South Korean shares also slipped.
After the bell, Twenty-First Century Fox FOXA.O shares were up 0.7 percent following the release of its results.
ENERGY: Benchmark U.S. crude gained 1 cent to $49.57 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange.
In commodities, oil prices resumed lower on Tuesday as investors assessed the implications of rising crude production from the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC).
On the currency front, the USA dollar is trading at 109.74 yen compared to the 110.32 yen it fetched at the close of NY trading on Tuesday.