While you were sleeping: HP shares buck trend

Wall Street moved lower as investors positioned themselves on the eve of the US third-quarter earnings season.

Shares of Micron dropped, last down 4.2 percent, after Samsung said it plans to spend US$14.7 billion on a new chip facility in South Korea. Micron is the largest US chipmaker.

"Semiconductor has been Samsung's long-time key business, while the company can no longer expect strong growth from its mobile unit," Lee Min Hee, an analyst at I'M Investment & Securities in Seoul, told Bloomberg News. "The company is now making a huge investment for the future as its key mobile business isn't likely to contribute to profit as much as it used to."

Bucking the trend were shares of Hewlett-Packard, which last traded 6 percent higher, after the company said it will split in two and plans to cut 5,000 jobs.

Both will be publicly traded companies, one comprising HP's market-leading enterprise technology infrastructure, software and services businesses, which will do business as Hewlett-Packard Enterprise, and one that will comprise HP's market-leading personal systems and printing businesses, which will do business as HP Inc. and retain the current logo, the company said in a statement.

Fresh takeover deals also added momentum in an otherwise anxious market.

Rio Tinto's American Depository Receipts were last up 5.8 per cent after Bloomberg reported that Glencore may approach the Australian miner in a bid to agree on a friendly merger which would create the world's largest mining group.

Shares of CareFusion soared, last up 23.2 percent, after Becton Dickinson agreed to buy it for US$12.2 billion in cash and stock. Shares of Becton Dickinson gained 7.1 percent.

In late afternoon trading in New York, the Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 0.20 percent, the Standard & Poor's 500 Index slipped 0.11, while the Nasdaq Composite Index shed 0.31 percent.

Declines in shares of Nike and those of UnitedHealth, down 1.5 percent and 1 percent respectively, led the Dow lower.

"Despite the good Hewlett Packard news and other (merger) activity there's nervousness in general," Rick Meckler, president of LibertyView Capital Management in Jersey City, New Jersey, told Reuters. "Before earnings there's a lot of short-term trading going on and we have increased volatility."

Alcoa is scheduled to report earnings after the close of the market on October 8.

To be sure, investors remained optimistic about the world's largest economy and upside for Wall Street.

"The recovery is alive and well, and while there are still risks we need to keep an eye on, fundamentals suggest we're in pretty good shape and could continue to move higher," John Carey, portfolio manager at Pioneer Investment Management in Boston, told Reuters.

In Europe, the Stoxx 600 finished the day with a 0.2 percent gain from the previous close. Earlier in the session, the index had climbed as much as 0.8 percent. France's CAC 40 added 0.1 percent, Germany's DAX increased 0.2 percent, while the UK's FTSE 100 Index advanced 0.6 percent.

A government report showed German factory orders dropped more than expected in August, while a separate report by Sentix showed investor confidence in the euro zone dropped more than anticipated in October