U.S. stocks fell on Tuesday after data showed weaker retail sales last month, raising a question mark about a recovery in consumer spending.

Sales at U.S. retailers in January were pressured by anemic receipts at building materials and restaurant outlets, likely reflecting the effects from snowstorms that had slammed large parts of the country.

The S&P retail index <.RLX> fell 0.1 percent. Family Dollar Stores Inc dropped nearly 1 percent to $43.43, while Saks Inc lost 0.7 percent to $12.44.

I don't know if today's data was soft enough to take the legs from underneath the market, but interestingly it's indicative of some spending exhaustion occurring in the consumer space, said Mark Luschini, chief investment strategist at Janney Montgomery Scott in Philadelphia.

The Dow Jones industrial average <.DJI> dropped 48.28 points, or 0.39 percent, to 12,219.91. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index <.SPX> fell 4.39 points, or 0.33 percent, to 1,327.93. The Nasdaq Composite Index <.IXIC> lost 8.78 points, or 0.31 percent, to 2,808.40.

In other economic reports, a gauge of manufacturing in New York State climbed to its highest level in eight months in February. Separate data showed U.S. import prices jumped at nearly double the forecast rate as energy costs shot up in another sign of creeping inflationary pressure.

In company news, Deutsche Boerse and NYSE Euronext said they reached agreement on a combination to create the world's largest exchange operator. NYSE Euronext fell 5.4 percent at $37.29.

China reported 4.9 percent inflation, below forecasts, but price pressures could force the central bank to keep tightening monetary policy.

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