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A trader looks at a computer screen during a bond auction on a trading floor in Madrid. (ANDREA COMAS/REUTERS)
A trader looks at a computer screen during a bond auction on a trading floor in Madrid. (ANDREA COMAS/REUTERS)

At midday: S&P 500 retreats from multi-year highs Add to ...

North American stocks were down in midday trading on Monday, ahead of the start of the fourth-quarter earnings season.

Shortly after noon, the S&P 500 was down 9 points or 0.6 per cent, to 1458 – one trading day after the benchmark index rose to its highest level in about five years. The blue-chip Dow Jones industrial average was down 76 points or 0.6 per cent, to 13,359. In Canada, the S&P/TSX composite index was down 82 points or 0.7 per cent, to 12,458.

Key commodities were lower. Crude oil fell to $92.83 (U.S.) a barrel, down 26 cents. Gold fell to $1,646 an ounce, down $3.

In Europe, the U.K.’s FTSE 100 fell 0.4 per cent and Germany’s DAX index fell 0.6 per cent.

The setbacks follow what had been a good week for stocks, as investors cheered a resolution in Washington to the budget impasse, averting the so-called “fiscal cliff” of automatic tax increases and spending cuts that would have pushed the U.S. economy into recession.

There are more negotiations ahead, though, pertaining to extending the U.S. debt ceiling and agreeing on budget cuts.

More immediately, investors will see the start of the quarterly reporting season this week, when Alcoa Inc. kicks things off on Tuesday, after markets close.

Within the S&P 500 utilities fell 1.2 per cent, energy stocks fell 1 per cent, financials fell 0.8 per cent and consumer staples fell 0.7 per cent each.

Bank of America Corp. fell 0.7 per cent, in line with its peers, after it agreed to a $12-billion deal to settle a dispute with Fannie Mae over bad mortgages.

In Canada, materials and consumer staples fell 0.9 per cent each. Energy stocks and financials fell 0.6 per cent each.

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