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A consumer pays with a credit card at a store in Montreal in this file photo. (Ryan Remiorz/THE CANADIAN PRESS)
A consumer pays with a credit card at a store in Montreal in this file photo. (Ryan Remiorz/THE CANADIAN PRESS)

At midday: Stocks idle despite rise in consumer confidence Add to ...

North American stocks were barely changed in midday trading on Friday, despite upbeat readings on U.S. consumer confidence and New York region manufacturing.

Shortly after noon, the S&P 500 was down less than 1 point, sending it slightly below 1,521. The Dow Jones industrial average was up 3 points, to 13,976. In Canada, the S&P/TSX composite index was down 24 points or 0.2 per cent, to 12,698.

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The lacklustre moves, which nonetheless should leave the U.S. benchmark index with a seventh consecutive week of gains, follows a better-than-expected reading on the Empire State manufacturing index, which showed that activity in the New York region rebounded to a reading of 10 from negative 7.8 last month – beating forecasts and signalling growth.

Meanwhile, the Thomson Reuters/University of Michigan consumer sentiment index for February showed a preliminary reading of 76.3, marking a tree-month high.

Within the S&P 500, financials fell 0.2 per cent and technology stocks were unchanged, while telecom stocks rose 0.1 per cent, consumer staples rose 0.2 per cent and consumer discretionary stocks rose 0.3 per cet.

Within Canada’s benchmark index, telecom stocks rose 1.7 per cent, industrials rose 0.6 per cent and financials rose 0.2 per cent. Commodity producers were weak, though, with energy stocks down 0.2 per cent and materials down 2 per cent.

It was a big day for telecom companies. Rogers Communications Inc. rose 4.6 per cent after reporting on Thursday a 30 per cent increase in its net earnings, to $455-million. The company’s chief executive, Nadir Mohamed, said he will step down from the top job in one year.

Telus Corp. reported a 23 per cent increase in its earnings, to $291-million, and 6 per cent growth in revenues. The shares rose 1.1 per cent.

Key commodities were weak. Gold fell to $1,611 (U.S.) an ounce, down nearly $25. Crude oil fell to $95.70 a barrel, down $1.61.

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