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People line up in front of an Apple store as they await sales of the new iPad in Munich in this file photo taken March 16, 2012. (MICHAELA REHLE/REUTERS)
People line up in front of an Apple store as they await sales of the new iPad in Munich in this file photo taken March 16, 2012. (MICHAELA REHLE/REUTERS)

At midday: Apple, commodities weigh on S&P 500 Add to ...

North American stocks were near session lows in midday trading on Wednesday, weighed down by weak commodities and concerns about demand for Apple Inc.’s latest iPhone.

The S&P 500 was down 6 points or 0.4 per cent, to 1525. The blue-chip Dow Jones industrial average was down 17 points or 0.1 per cent, to 14,018. In Canada, the S&P/TSX composite index was down 46 points or 0.4 per cent, to 12,764.

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The declines follow multi-year highs for the S&P 500, with the benchmark index up for seven consecutive weeks.

U.S. housing figures generally disappointed expectations. Housing starts fell 8.5 per cent in January. However, building permits rose 1.8 per cent.

Crude oil fell to $94.52 (U.S.) a barrel, down $2.14. Silver fell 2.6 per cent, amid speculation that a hedge fund has been selling positions. Gold fell to $1,582 (U.S.) an ounce, down $22.50. That brings the price of bullion to its lowest level since July.

As well, technical analysts noted that gold’s 50-day moving average had fallen below its 200-day moving average, forming what is known as a Death Cross (yes, that is considered bearish).

Within the S&P 500, materials fell 1.7 per cent and energy stocks fell 0.7 per cent. Telecom stocs and utilities rose 0.4 per cent each.

Apple Inc. fell 2 per cent after the Financial Times reported that Foxcon Technology Group, one of Apple’s biggest suppliers, had imposed a hiring freeze in Chinese factories – suggesting that production of the iPhone 5 is slowing.

Office Depot Inc. confirmed reports earlier in the week that it has struck a merger deal with OfficeMax Inc., worth $1.2-billion. OfficeMax fell 4.2 per cent and Office Depot fell 14.3 per cent – though both stocks surged on Tuesday.

In Canada, materials fell 2 per cent and energy stocks fell 0.2 per cent, while consumer staples fell 0.7 per cent and telecom stocks fell 0.6 per cent.

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