U.S. stocks slipped as retail sales raised doubts about the economic recovery. Energy and basic materials equities led the way downward, albeit in moderate trading volume.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 41.55 points, or 0.34 percent, to close at 12,226.64. The S&P 500 Index tumbled 4.31 points, or 0.32 percent, at 1,328.01. The Nasdaq Composite Index shed 12.83 points, or 0.46 percent, at 2,804.35.

Retail sales edged up only 0.3 percent in January, according to the Commerce Department.

JDS Uniphase Corp (Nasdaq: JDSU) plunged 10.18 percent after brokerage Bernstein downgraded its rating on the stock to market-perform from outperform.

NYSE Euronext (NYSE:NYX) dropped 3.37 percent after it agreed to merge with Deutsche Boerse to create the world's largest exchange operator.

Oil futures fell 0.58 percent, while gold futures rose by 0.75 percent.

Bonds fell as the yield on the 10-Year Treasury climbed to 3.62 percent.