NEW YORK CITY, RAW – US stocks have ended lower as a sharp decline in telecom stocks and weak housing starts data overshadowed better than expected earnings from Walmart and Home Depot.

AT&T Inc was among the biggest percentage decliners in the benchmark S&P 500.

It extended declines from Monday, when the telecoms firm said it would cut its dividend payout ratio as a result of its $US43 billion ($A55 billion) media asset deal with Discovery Inc.

T-Mobile and Verizon Communications also dropped.

The three main indexes opened higher after Walmart, the world’s biggest retailer, raised its full-year earnings forecast and Home Depot reported quarterly same-store sales above estimates.

“Those are both emblematic of strength in the corporate sector and also of the consumer. I mean, you can’t have Walmart and Home Depot have blowout earnings without the consumer really stepping up spending stimulus cheques, adopting e-commerce, as well as getting back into stores”, said Ross Mayfield, investment strategist at Baird in Louisville, Kentucky.

“And a lot of the bull thesis for the market right now is still built on a really strong reopening of the economy.”

Despite its strong results, Home Depot’s shares went down, under pressure due to the lack of a solid outlook and the housing data.

Latest data showed US home-building fell more than expected in April, likely pulled down by soaring prices for lumber and other materials.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 267.26 points, or 0.78 per cent, to 34,060.53, the S&P 500 lost 35.55 points, or 0.85 per cent, to 4,127.74 and the Nasdaq Composite dropped 75.41 points, or 0.56 per cent, to 13,303.64.

Wall Street has been volatile in recent days, with investors worried that an overheating economy could prompt the Federal Reserve to rein in its monetary support following a spike in volatility last week after strong inflation readings.

Fund managers recently trimmed their overweight positions on technology stocks to a three-year low as inflation worries left growth stocks vulnerable to a pullback, and turned overweight on UK stocks for the first time in seven years, a survey from Bank of America showed.

Minutes from the Fed’s April policy meeting will be parsed on Wednesday for the central bank’s view of the economy.