Nordstrom and Gap dived after the two retailers reported weak quarterly results and warned of supply chain problems ahead of the crucial U.S. holiday shopping season.
The S&P 500 consumer discretionary sector index rose after data showed U.S. consumer spending increased more than expected in October.
The so-called core PCE price index, the Federal Reserve's preferred inflation measure, also accelerated in October.
Nvidia rallied as it bounced back from a selloff in Big Tech stocks early this week. The graphics chipmaker is now up about 150% in 2021.
Various Federal Reserve policymakers said they would be open to speeding up elimination of their bond-buying program and move more quickly to raise interest rates if high inflation held, minutes of the U.S. central bank's last policy meeting showed.
Other data showed weekly jobless claims fell and third-quarter GDP was revised higher, while a University of Michigan survey showed consumer sentiment improved in November.
Coronavirus infections broke records in parts of Europe on Wednesday, with investors worried the continent was again the epicenter of a pandemic that has prompted new curbs on movement.
"Equities are under pressure from a combination of rising interest rates, more cautionary news on the earnings front, and also from COVID developments in Europe," said Greg Bassuk, chief executive at AXS Investments in Port Chester, New York.
The U.S. stock market will be closed on Thursday for the Thanksgiving holiday, and it will have a shortened session on Friday.
Real estate led among 11 S&P 500 sector indexes with a gain of over 1% for most of the session.
Unofficially, the Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 0.02% to end at 35,807.48 points, while the S&P 500 gained 0.23% to 4,701.54.
The Nasdaq Composite climbed 0.44% to 15,845.23.
Tesla Inc rose as much as 1.9%. In his latest of several recent share sales, CEO Elon Musk sold 934,091 shares of the electric vehicle maker worth $1.05 billion after exercising options to buy 2.15 million shares.
PC makers HP Inc and Dell Technologies jumped after they logged a more than four-fold rise in quarterly profits amid increasing demand for personal computers.
(Additional reporting by Ambar Warrick and Devik Jain in Bengaluru; Editing by Maju Samuel and David Gregorio)
By Ambar Warrick and Noel Randewich