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While you were sleeping: Stocks slide on car sales

Wall Street moved lower from record highs after disappointing car sales lowered the appeal of equities for now, as investors await a speech from Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen later in the day, as well as US jobs data this week.

Yellen is set to speak on Tuesday evening in New York. Also firmly on the radar is Thursday's European Central Bank meeting as investors await further details on its plans to start buying more securities to bolster the languid euro-zone economy.

Weighing on the market were disappointing car sales, even as severe winter weather was blamed. Shares of Ford Motor fell, last 2.4 percent lower, after it reported a 2 percent decline in February sales, a surprise drop. Shares of General Motors inched 0.1 percent higher after it too reported sales that fell short of estimates.

In afternoon trading on Wall Street, the Dow Jones Industrial Average shed 0.53 percent, the Standard & Poor's 500 Index dropped 0.76 percent, while the Nasdaq Composite Index slid 0.95 percent. Earlier in the day, the Dow touched a record-high 18,260.31, while the Nasdaq reached 5,001.29.

Slides in shares of Cisco and those of 3M, last down 2.2 percent and 1.5 percent respectively, led the Dow lower.

Investors are eyeing the US jobs data, particularly Friday's government report, which is expected to show payrolls advanced by 235,000 last month.

"This week is very much about the ECB and the jobs report," said Witold Bahrke, an asset-allocation strategist at Nomura International in London. "We had a very strong run in the recent week. It's only natural that people will step a bit more into the sidelines, especially when you're heading into these big events at the end of the week when we could see larger moves."

In Europe, the Stoxx 600 Index finished the session with 0.9 percent slide from the previous close. The UK's FTSE 100 Index dropped 0.7 percent, France's CAC 40 Index weakened 1 percent, and Germany's DAX lost 1.1 percent.

Euro-zone equities had gained earlier in the session following a report showing better-than-expected German retail sales in January, more than economists had expected.

Meanwhile, a first-quarter survey the Business Roundtable showed CEOs expect US gross domestic product to rise by 2.8 percent this year, compared to a projection of a 2.4 percent increase a quarter earlier, Reuters reported.

"The US economy and the job outlook are starting the year in a stronger position than 2014," Randall Stephenson, chairman of Business Roundtable and CEO of AT&T, told Reuters.