The S&P 500 index fell 15.42 points to trade at 1,134.81 in morning trading while the Dow lost 164.6 points to trade at 10,560.83.

Among the bigger decliners were basic material stocks. Among the biggest of the S&P 500 were Newmont Mining (NYSE:NEM), down 4.52 percent, Cliffs Natural Resources (NYSE:CLF), down 4.38%, and AvalonBay, a real estate investment fund (REIT), which is trading down 2.25 percent.

Before the opening bell, the U.S. Census Bureau released building permits at 8:30 a.m. ET. It showed a December figure of 653,000, which was 11% above the revised November figure of 589,000. According to a survey by Bloomberg, the result beat estimates of 572,000.

However, the same report showed decreasing figures for housing starts and housing completions.

The Producer Price Index (PPI) was also released this morning, showing a December increase of 0.2 percent. It was below the 1.8 percent advance in November but above the forecast of no change, according to a Bloomberg survey.