North American stocks struggled in midday action on Tuesday, a day after scoring their best rally in about two months over optimism that the U.S. is on track to surmount its fiscal cliff.
Shortly after noon, the Dow Jones industrial average was up 2 points, or zero per cent, to 12,798. The broader S&P 500 was up 2 points, or 0.1 per cent, to 1,389. In Canada, the S&P/TSX composite index was down 5 points, or zero per cent, to 12,035.
The U.S. housing market continued to show signs of healing. Housing starts in October rose 3.6 per cent over revised figures for September, easily beating expectations among economists. While building permits fell 2.7 per cent from September, they were nearly 30 per cent above last year’s reading.
The report sent U.S. homebuilders higher. PulteGroup rose 6.2 per cent.
Hewlett-Packard Co. fell 10.9 per cent after the computer maker said it would take an $8.8-billion (U.S.) writedown associated with its acquisition of Autonomy Corp. The company also forecast disappointing first quarter earnings.
Intel Corp. fell 3.7 per cent and Alcoa Inc. fell 1.1 per cent. However, U.S. financials showed some strength: Bank of America Corp. rose 1.6 per cent and JPMorgan Chase & Co. rose 1.3 per cent.
Research In Motion Ltd. rose 3.9 per cent in Toronto after Jefferies raised its recommendation on the stock to “hold,” arguing that the BlackBerry maker’s coming operating system has been well-received so far.
Key commodities retreated. Crude oil fell to $87.47 a barrel, down $1.81. Gold fell to $1,731 an ounce, down $4.
In Europe, major indexes rose, even as Moody’s Investors Service cut France’s triple-A credit rating on Monday evening. The U.K.’s FTSE 100 rose 0.2 per cent and Germany’s DAX index rose 0.7 per cent.