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At the open: Dow retreats after consumer confidence miss Add to ...

North American stocks were relatively unchanged soon after the start of trading on Friday, following a weaker-than-expected reading on U.S. consumer sentiment.

The Dow Jones industrial average fell 2 points, to 13,251, threatening to end a lengthy winning streak for the blue-chip index. The broader S&P 500 fell 1 point, to 1,402. In Canada, the S&P/TSX composite index rose 43 points or 0.4 per cent.

Indexes had been stronger at the bell, following reports on U.S. industrial production and the consumer price index for February. However, the University of Michigan consumer sentiment index fell to 74.3, versus expectations for a rise to 76 – skewering investor sentiment in the process.

U.S. banks were mixed: Bank of America Corp. rose 1 per cent but JPMorgan Chase & Co. fell 0.7 per cent. Coca-Cola Co. , Home Depot Inc. and Verizon Communications Inc. fell 0.4 per cent each.

Among Canadian stocks, Astral Media Inc. surged 33.2 per cent after BCE Inc. offered more than $3-billion for the company. BCE shares fell 0.3 per cent.

Meanwhile, banks moved higher: Royal Bank of Canada rose 0.4 per cent and Bank of Nova Scotia rose 0.5 per cent. Potash Corp. of Saskatchewan Inc. rose 3.2 per cent. Viterra Inc. , at the centre of a potential takeover, retreated 0.4 per cent after big gains on Thursday.

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