U.S. stocks fell on Wednesday as an unexpected drop in new home construction in October sparked caution about the strength of an economic recovery, offsetting strength in the natural resources sector amid U.S. dollar weakness.

Housing starts declined to their lowest level in six months, weighed down by a sharp fall in construction activity for both single-family and multi-family dwellings, the government reported.

This is not good news at all, said Dan Cook, senior market analyst at IG Markets in Chicago.

The data was the latest setback for investors eager for definitive signs a recovery was gaining traction to justify loftier stock valuations. On Tuesday, indexes closed at fresh 13-month highs.

Drags included big manufacturers, with shares of United Technologies Corp off 1.3 percent at $68.64, 3M Co down 1 percent to $77.43, and technology shares, with Hewlett-Packard Co dipping 1.8 percent to $50.40.

Worrying outlooks from major software makers added to the negative tone on technology.

The Dow Jones industrial average <.DJI> shed 65.22 points, or 0.62 percent, to 10,372.20. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index <.SPX> dropped 5.63 points, or 0.51 percent, to 1,104.69. The Nasdaq Composite Index <.IXIC> fell 17.30 points, or 0.79 percent, to 2,186.48.

Software maker Autodesk Inc forecast fourth-quarter earnings below expectations, and business software maker Salesforce.com Inc reported a slowdown in new business.

Autodesk shares were off 10 percent at $24.28 and among the Nasdaq's top drags, while Salesforce shares tumbled 5.1 percent to $62.25 on the New York Stock Exchange.

But shares of gold miner Newmont Mining Corp rose 0.3 percent to $53 after spot gold prices rose to record highs above $1,150 an ounce.

The dollar index <.DXY> declined 0.4 percent.

(Additional reporting by Ryan Vlastelica; editing by Jeffrey Benkoe)