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In this Thursday, March 15, 2012, file photo, traders work at the Goldman Sachs posts on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange. (Richard Drew/AP Photo)
In this Thursday, March 15, 2012, file photo, traders work at the Goldman Sachs posts on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange. (Richard Drew/AP Photo)

At midday: Stocks in two-day retreat Add to ...

North American stocks were down in midday trading on Tuesday, marking the second straight decline after the U.S. benchmark index ended last week at a five-year high.

Shortly after noon, the S&P 500 was down 7 points or 0.5 per cent, to 1454. The blue-chip Dow Jones industrial average was down 70 points or 0.5 per cent, to 13,314. In Canada, the S&P/TSX composite index was down 30 points or 0.2 per cent, to 12,469.

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Within the S&P 500, telecom stocks fell 2.3 per cent, industrials fell 0.9 per cent and technology stocks and financials fell 0.7 per cent each.

Alcoa Inc. kicks off the official start of the fourth quarter earnings season after markets close on Tuesday. The shares rose 0.2 per cent.

However, Monsanto Co. reported its fiscal first quarter results, beating estimates with earnings of $339-milion (U.S.) or 63 cents a share. It also raised its full-year profit forecast. The shares rose 2.7 per cent.

Within Canada’s benchmark index, telecom stocks fell 0.6 per cent, energy stocks fell 0.4 per cent, financials fell 0.2 per cent and materials fell 0.1 per cent.

Barrick Gold Corp. fell 1.3 per cent after it ended talks to sell its African unit to China National Gold because the two companies couldn’t agree on a value. The sale had been projected to bring in $2.5-billion and help offset Barrick’s rising production costs.

Among key commodities, crude oil fell to $92.94 a barrel, down 25 cents. Gold rose to $1,657 an ounce, up $11.

In Europe, the U.K.’s FTSE 100 fell 0.2 per cent and Germany’s DAX index fell 0.5 per cent.

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