North American stocks drifted sideways in midday trading on Wednesday, amid some anxiety about the second quarter earnings season and ahead of the much-anticipated release of minutes from the last Federal Reserve monetary policy meeting.
At noon, the Dow Jones industrial average was down 17 points or 0.1 per cent, to 12,637. The broader S&P 500 was up less than 1 point or 0.1 per cent, to 1343 – in an attempt to break out of a four-day slump, its longest losing streak in about two months. In Canada, the S&P/TSX composite index was up 27 points or 0.2 per cent, to 11,539.
The lacklustre moves follow a number of slashed earnings projections, which have rattled nerves at the start of the reporting season. On Tuesday, Advanced Micro Devices Inc. cut its outlook because of worsening conditions in Europe and China, and engine-maker Cummins Inc. lowered its revenue outlook for 2012.
The latest: Goldcorp Inc. cuts its full-year gold production forecast, due to lower output from mines in Mexico and Canada. The shift sent the shares down 10 per cent.
Among the 10 subindexes within the S&P 500, energy stocks showed the biggest gains, rising 1.4 per cent. The gains followed crude oil's rise to $85.34 (U.S.) a barrel, up $1.34. Financials rose 0.8 per cent and utilities rose 0.5 per cent.
Technology stocks, consumer discretionary stocks and industrials lagged.
Within Canada's benchmark index, materials fell 1.8 per cent as other gold producers followed Goldcorp down. Telecom stocks fell 0.5 per cent, but consumer staples, financials and energy stocks showed gains.
In Europe, the U.K.'s FTSE 100 closed relatively flat, while Germany's DAX index rose 0.2 per cent.
The yield on Spain's 10-year government bonds retreated to 6.5 per cent, down 23 basis points, after the government introduced an austerity package of €65-billion worth of deficit cuts. The yield on Italy's 10-year government bonds fell to 5.8 per cent, down 13.5 basis points. There are 100 basis points in a percentage point.
Meanwhile, the biggest potential market mover arrives in the afternoon when the Federal Reserve releases the minutes from its June monetary policy meeting. Investors and economists will be looking for any signals as to how the Fed stands on introducing a more aggressive round of economic stimulus.