US stocks closed lower on 21 April, ending in the red following a three-day winning streak. Severe declines in the consumer staples, telecoms and utilities sectors weighed heavily on the three major averages, with the Dow Jones slumping below the 18,000 level.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 113.75 points, or 0.6%, to settle at 17,982.52. The blue-chip gauge was weighed down by losses in Travelers Companies and Verizon Communications Inc.

The declines in both companies also influenced the S&P 500, which dropped 10.92 points, or 0.5%, to settle at 2,091.48. Nine of its 10 main sectors—led by telecoms and utilities — closed with losses. "The S&P 500 is definitely weighed on by United, Travelers and Verizon," JJ Kinahan, chief strategist at TD Ameritrade told CNBC. "You have a few stocks that have had oversized (impact)."

Telecoms was the biggest decliner, edging 2.7%. lower. According to CNBC, Travelers was down 10% from a year ago. Meanwhile, Verizon dropped 3.3%, contributing heavily to the decline in the Dow. An ongoing strike by the company's wireline workers was expected to hurt its earnings in the current quarter, Verizon said.

The Nasdaq Composite dropped just 2.24 points, or less than 0.1%, to close at 4,945.89. Apple, which dropped nearly 1.1% into bear market territory, weighed on the tech-heavy average. All three major averages remain on pace for their second-straight positive week.

In US economic news, the weekly jobless claims came in at 247,000, the lowest it has been since 1973. The Philly Fed Index was at minus 1.6 in April, CNBC noted. "I do think from an economic standpoint one of the bright things we'd been seeing was these regional manufacturing numbers pick up pretty reasonably well. Then Philly Fed came out of nowhere," Ben Pace, Chief Investment Officer at HPM Partners, said.

US crude oil futures, pressured by the disappointing Philly Fed and strength in the dollar, dropped $1, or 2.26%, to $43.18 a barrel.

The US dollar index held higher, with the euro at $1.127 and the yen near 109.45 yen against the greenback. Gold prices dropped following four straight sessions of gains to settle down $4.10 at $1,250.30 an ounce.

Overseas, European stocks closed mixed after the European Central Bank kept rates unchanged. The STOXX Europe 600 Ban index closed almost 1.4% higher. In Asia, the Shanghai Composite dropped 0.7% while the Nikkei 225 surged 2.7%.