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James Sciulli, a floor trader for Barclays, makes a final trade at the New York Stock Exchange on Tuesday. The S&P 500 index fell 2.43 per cent this week. (CHIP EAST/REUTERS)
James Sciulli, a floor trader for Barclays, makes a final trade at the New York Stock Exchange on Tuesday. The S&P 500 index fell 2.43 per cent this week. (CHIP EAST/REUTERS)

Inside the market

At midday: S&P 500 pops into positive territory Add to ...

North American stocks in midday trading on Friday showed tentative signs of breaking out of a recent slump that has sent the U.S. benchmark index toward four-month lows.

At around noon, the Dow Jones industrial average was up 20 points or 0.2 per cent, to 12,562 – after recovering about 90 points from its earlier low. The broader S&P 500 was up 3 points or 0.2 per cent, to 1356. In Canada, the S&P/TSX composite index was up 22 points or 0.2 per cent, to 11,833.

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The recent market setbacks have driven the S&P 500 down as much as 8 per cent from its recent high in September, as investors fret over the looming U.S. fiscal cliff of automatic tax increases and spending cuts, and a weak global economy.

On Friday, there was at least one encouraging sign on the fiscal cliff after House Speaker John Boehner said that he had had “constructive” talks about the U.S. budget with President Barack Obama.

However, the economic backdrop didn’t improve. A report showed that U.S. industrial production fell 0.4 per cent in October, well below expectations for a gain of 0.2 per cent – although the impact of Hurricane Sandy, which hit the east coast last month, might be largely to blame.

Within the S&P 500, health care stocks and utilities rose 0.8 per cent each and consumer discretionary stocks rose 0.6 per cent. However, technology stocks – which have been leading the recent market selloff – continued to look weak, falling 0.3 per cent.

Dell Inc. fell 7.6 per cent after reporting on Thursday that earnings fell to $475-million (U.S.) or 27 cents a share, down from 49 cents a share last year.

Apple Inc. fell 2 per cent, extending its slump to about 27 per cent from its record high in September.

Within Canada’s benchmark index, commodity producers remained weak: Materials fell 0.9 per cent and energy stocks fell 0.3 per cent.

Among commodities, gold fell to $1,712 an ounce, down nearly $2. Crude oil rose to $86.65 a barrel, up $1.20.

BCE Inc. rose 1 per cent after Astral Media Inc. said that it was in discussions with the telecom giant to amend a takeover agreement recently rejected by the Canadian regulator. Astral trading was halted.

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