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At midday: S&P 500 hits new intraday high Add to ...

North American stocks were higher in midday trading on Tuesday, sending the S&P 500 to a record intraday high.

The S&P 500 was up 11 points or 0.7 per cent, to 1573, also putting it on track to hit another record high close. The blue-chip Dow Jones industrial average was up 98 points or 0.7 per cent, to 14,671. In Canada, the S&P/TSX composite index was up 10 points or less than 0.1 per cent, to 12,705.

The gains followed a report showing a 3 per cent rise in U.S. factory orders in February, close to expectations for a gain of 2.9 per cent and its biggest rise in five months – providing fresh evidence that the U.S. economy is doing relatively well.

In addition, European bond yields fell, pointing to subsiding concerns about the ongoing debt crisis there – which flared up recently over concerns about Cyprus. The yield on the 10-year Spanish government bond fell 12 basis points, to 4.92 per cent. The yield on the 10-year Italian government bond fell 14 basis points, to 4.61 per cent.

Among major European indexes, where markets were closed on Monday, the U.K.’s FTSE 100 rose 1.2 per cent and Germany’s DAX index rose 1.9 per cent in late afternoon trading.

Within the S&P 500, health-care stocks led the way with gains of 1.3 per cent. Consumer staples rose 1.1 per cent, consumer discretionary stocks rose 0.9 per cent and financials rose 0.6 per cent.

Hewlett-Packard Co. fell 6.2 per cent after Goldman Sachs recommended it as a “sell.”

Vodafone Group PLC rose 2 per cent after the Financial Times reported that AT&T Inc. and Verizon Communications Inc. are working on a joint offer for the mobile phone company.

In Canada, consumer staples rose 0.9 per cent, utilities rose 0.8 per cent and industrials rose 0.7 per cent. Materials were the biggest laggard, falling 1.9 per cent after the price of gold slipped to $1,577 (U.S.) an ounce, down $23.

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