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A trader works on the floor at the New York Stock Exchange in New York, Friday, Dec. 28, 2012. Stocks were heading lower Friday, for a fifth day, on concern that Washington lawmakers will fail to reach a budget deal before a year-end deadline. (Seth Wenig/AP)
A trader works on the floor at the New York Stock Exchange in New York, Friday, Dec. 28, 2012. Stocks were heading lower Friday, for a fifth day, on concern that Washington lawmakers will fail to reach a budget deal before a year-end deadline. (Seth Wenig/AP)

At midday: Stocks off Monday morning lows Add to ...

North American stocks were relatively flat in midday trading on Monday, after recovering from a dip at the start of the day.

The S&P 500 was relatively unchanged, at 1,518. The Dow Jones industrial average was down 25 points or 0.2 per cent, to 14,064. In Canada, the S&P/TSX composite index was down 38 points or 0.3 per cent, to 12,735.

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While automatic U.S. spending cuts, due to a lack of agreement in Washington, are weighing on sentiment, investors are also digesting weak economic news from China. There, the country’s services industry slowed in February: The purchasing managers’ index fell to 54.5 last month from 56.2 in January – but still above the expansion threshold of 50.

Meanwhile, the vice chair of the Federal Reserve, Janet Yellen said that the Fed should continue its asset purchase program in an effort to provide economic stimulus – further easing concerns that the central bank could withdraw stimulus sooner than expected. In the Fed’s minutes from its last policy meeting, some officials had said that the costs and risks associated with the asset purchases were potential trouble.

Within the S&P 500, telecom stocks rose 0.6 per cent, utilities rose 0.5 per cent and consumer discretionary stocks rose 0.3 per cent. However, energy stocks fell 0.8 per cent, industrials fell 0.7 per cent and technology stocks fell 0.2 per cent.

Apple Inc. fell to $422.79, down $7.68, bringing its decline to nearly 40 per cent from its record high in September. This year alone, the shares have slumped more than 20 per cent.

In Canada, commodity producers were by far the biggest drags on performance. Energy stocks fell 0.5 per cent after the price of crude oil fell to $89.77 (U.S.) a barrel, down 91 cents – marking its first move of the year below $90 a barrel.

Materials fell 1.6 per cent. Gold fell to $1,572 an ounce, down $4.

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

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