NEW YORK - Stocks slipped in muted trading Wednesday as traders held back ahead of corporate earnings announcements, which start to roll in next week. Protests in Europe against austerity measures renewed worries about the region's finances and helped keep buyers at bay.

The dollar fell further against other currencies as traders anticipate more action by the Federal Reserve to push U.S. interest rates down. Gold climbed past $1,300.

Most sectors fell on the stock market except for energy, which rose after crude oil prices gained. Schlumberger Ltd., Occidental Petroleum Corp. and other companies rose after the price of crude oil jumped on news that inventories fell last week. Benchmark crude for November delivery rose $1.68 to settle at $77.86 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

Trading was relatively subdued with no major economic reports or corporate earnings due out. Third-quarter earnings season gets underway Oct. 7 with Alcoa Inc.

"The big drivers of the market were just absent today," said Kim Caughey, an equity research analyst at Fort Pitt Capital Group in Pittsburgh. "Everyone is sitting around waiting for earnings season to begin."

Wednesday's decline in U.S. stocks marked another pause in a monthlong rally that has made this September one of the strongest for U.S. stocks in history. With only one trading day left this month, the Dow Jones industrial average is on track for its best September since 1939 with a gain of 8.2 percent so far. It's still up only 3.9 percent for the year.

The Dow Jones industrial average lost 22.86, or 0.2 percent, to close at 10,835.28

The Standard & Poor's 500 index slipped 2.97, or 0.3 percent, to 1,144.73, and the Nasdaq composite fell 3.03, or 0.1 percent, to 2,376.56.