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Traders on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange on Monday, July 23, 2012 in New York. (Henny Ray Abrams/Associated Press)
Traders on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange on Monday, July 23, 2012 in New York. (Henny Ray Abrams/Associated Press)

The close: Stocks dip, shattering calm day Add to ...

North American stocks dipped in afternoon trading on Wednesday, ending a relatively calm day for stocks and handing the U.S. benchmark index its fourth loss in five days.

The Dow Jones industrial average closed at 13,077.34, down 25.19 points or 0.2 per cent. The broader S&P 500 closed at 1408.75, down 4.36 points or 0.3 per cent – taking the index to its lowest close since early September. In Canada, the S&P/TSX composite index closed at 12,195.02, down 30.82 points or 0.3 per cent.

The moves followed a sharp downturn on Tuesday, which appeared to be connected to a slew of disappointing financial results from key U.S. companies with international operations, raising concerns about the health of the global economy.

On Wednesday, major indexes had been almost flat throughout the day before turning down in the final hour, well after the Federal Reserve delivered a monetary policy statement that contained no surprises. Its description of economic activity – that it has “continued to expand at a moderate pace in recent months” – was lifted from its previous statement.

Stocks had responded earlier to an upbeat reading on China’s economy, which pointed to a soft-landing. The HSBC flash manufacturing purchasing managers’ index for October remained in contraction territory, but rose to a three-month high of 49.1.

In the United States, the Commerce Department reported that new home sales in September rose 5.7 per cent to an annual pace of 389,000 – slightly better than expectations and the highest level in more than two years, providing more evidence that the housing market is recovering.

Netflix Inc. slumped 11.9 per cent after reporting disappointing quarterly results on Tuesday after markets closed.

However, Facebook Inc. soared more than 19.1 per cent after reporting better-than-expected revenue and demonstrating to investors that consumers are using Facebook on mobile devices.

Canadian Pacific Railway Ltd. rose 6 per cent after it reported earnings of $224-million, up 20 per cent over last year.

Key commodities moved lower. Crude oil fell to $85.73 (U.S.) a barrel, down 94 cents. Gold fell to $1701.60 an ounce, down $7.80. Among Canadian commodity producers, Suncor Energy Inc. rose 0.2 per cent and Barrick Gold Corp. fell 0.9 per cent.

In the post market Wednesday, Zynga Inc. shares soared 15 per cent after the social game maker announced that its board has authorized a share buyback of up to $200-million (U.S.)

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