The S&P 500 fell below its 200-day moving average on Wednesday after a hefty rally had left the index positive for the year and many investors eyed a return to volatility in early 2012.

The Dow Jones industrial average <.DJI> dropped 53.96 points, or 0.44 percent, to 12,237.39. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index <.SPX> dropped 6.67 points, or 0.53 percent, to 1,258.76. The Nasdaq Composite Index <.IXIC> dropped 17.19 points, or 0.65 percent, to 2,608.01.

(Reporting Edward Krudy)