The Dow ended the day down 49 points at 12,605, after minutes from a Federal Reserve meeting highlighted concerns about the U.S. economy.
In a summary of their June meeting released Wednesday, Fed officials said the economy could struggle if Congress fails to avert tax hikes and spending cuts scheduled for the end of the year. Europe's debt crisis and China also posed risks.
The Standard & Poor's 500 index lost a fraction of a point at 1,341. The Nasdaq lost 14 points to 2,888.
Rising stocks outpaced falling ones by a small margin on the New York Stock Exchange. Trading volume was light at 3.3 billion.