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Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange, September 12, 2012. (BRENDAN MCDERMID/REUTERS)
Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange, September 12, 2012. (BRENDAN MCDERMID/REUTERS)

At midday: S&P 500 struggles to hold 1500-level Add to ...

North American stocks were down in midday trading on Thursday, faltering on concerns about the euro and disappointing U.S. jobless claims.

The S&P 500 was down 9 points or 0.6 per cent, to 1503. The blue-chip Dow Jones industrial average was down 93 points or 0.7 per cent, to 13,893. In Canada, the S&P/TSX composite index was down 12 points or 0.1 per cent, to 12,749.

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Mario Draghi, president of the European Central Bank, raised eyebrows with his comments about the euro, remarking that the currency’s strength could hold back an economic recovery in the region. The comments sent the euro down about 1 per cent, after flying to 14-month highs last week.

The U.K.’s FTSE 100 fell 1.1 per cent and Germany’s DAX index trimmed its earlier gains, closing up just 0.1 per cent.

In the United States, weekly initial jobless claims disappointed economists. For the period ended last week, claims fell to 366,000 – down just 2,000 from the previous week and slightly higher than the 360,000 claims that economists had been expecting.

Within the S&P 500, commodity producers led the declines: Energy stocks and materials fell 0.9 per cent each. Consumer discretionary stocks fell 0.7 per cent and financials fell 0.6 per cent.

Akamai Technologies Inc. tumbled 15.5 per cent after reporting quarterly revenues and forecasts that missed analysts’ expectations.

Apple Inc. rose 0.5 per cent after influential hedge fund manager David Einhorn, head of Greenlight Capital, said the company should return cash to shareholders in the form of preferred shares. At the end of 2012, Apple’s cash holdings grew to $137-billion (U.S.), up 13 per cent since September alone.

In Canada, energy stocks fell 0.4 per cent, materials rose 0.2 per cent and financials fell 0.1 per cent.

Shoppers Drug Mart Corp. rose 1.8 per cent after reporting net income of $176-million (Canadian), down slightly over last year but up on a per-share basis. The retailer also boosted its dividend and reported a 4.4 per cent increase in revenue.

Among key commodities, crude oil fell to $95.99 (U.S.) a barrel, down 63 cents. Gold rose to $1,682 an ounce, up $3.

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