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North American stocks were higher in midday trading on Friday, led by U.S. consumer stocks, sending the S&P 500 back to near the 1,500-point threshold and putting it on track for its eighth straight gain.

Shortly after noon, the S&P 500 was up nearly 6 points or 0.4 per cent, to 1501 – extending the longest rally since 2004, according to Bloomberg News. The benchmark index had risen above 1500 in Thursday's session, but handed back most of its gains in the afternoon.

The blue-chip Dow Jones industrial average was up 55 points or 0.4 per cent, to 13,880. In Canada, the S&P/TSX composite index was up 2 points or zero per cent, to 12,825.

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Within the S&P 500, consumer discretionary stocks showed the biggest gains, rising 0.7 per cent. Consumer staples and health care stocks rose 0.4 per cent each. Financials rose 0.3 per cent and technology stocks rose 0.1 per cent.

Apple Inc. surrendered an early gain, and was down 2.7 per cent in midday trading, hitting a new 52-week low of about $438. It fell more than 12 per cent on Thursday, following the release of disappointing quarterly results.

Microsoft Corp. rose 1 per cent after it reported a 3.7 per cent dip in its quarterly earnings – but also showed an 11 per cent increase in its Windows division revenue following the release of the Windows 8 operating system and the Surface tablet last year.

Starbucks rose 4.2 per cent after the coffee retailer reported a 13 per cent gain in its earnings.

Consumer products giant Procter & Gamble rose 3.9 per cent after its earnings beat expectations and it raised its outlook for 2013.

Within Canada's benchmark index, technology stocks rose 0.6 per cent, driven partly by Research In Motion Ltd.'s 2.1 per cent gain. Energy stocks rose 0.3 per cent, even as the price of crude oil fell to $95.85 (U.S.) a barrel, down 10 cent. Materials fell 1 per cent, after gold fell to $1,658 an ounce, down $12.

In Europe, the U.K.'s FTSE 100 rose 0.3 per cent and Germany's DAX index rose 1.4 per cent.

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European banks were set to repay 137-billion euros of loans received under the European Central Bank's Longer-Term Refinancing Operation, ahead of expectations.

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