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A worker collects crude oil sample at an oil well operated by Venezuela's state oil company PDVSA in Morichal July 28, 2011.

Carlos Garcia Rawlins/REUTERS

North American stocks remained underwater in midday trading on Monday after a disappointing reading on U.S. retail sales, but were well off their earlier lows.

At noon, the Dow Jones industrial average was down 33 points or 0.3 per cent, to 12,744. The broader S&P 500 was down 2 points or 0.1 per cent, to 1355 – after falling below 1349 in earlier trading. In Canada, the S&P/TSX composite index was down 8 points or less than 0.1 per cent, to 11,507.

The declines follow a report from the Commerce Department showing another decline in U.S. retail sales. Sales in June fell 0.5 per cent, well below the 0.2 per cent increase expected by economists. It marked the third straight monthly decline in retail sales.

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Meanwhile, the International Monetary Fund cut its forecast for global economic growth in 2013, to 3.9 per cent from 4.1 per cent in a previous forecast in April.

In Europe, stocks were mixed even as Spanish and Italian bond yield moved higher. The U.K.'s FTSE 100 fell 0.1 per cent and Germany's DAX index rose 0.1 per cent. The yield on Spain's 10-year government bond rose to 6.73 per cent, up about 16 basis points. (There are 100 basis points in a percentage point.)

Within the S&P 500, industrials fell 0.7 per cent, materials fell 0.5 per cent and financials fell 0.3 per cent. Economically defensive telecom and health care stocks showed slight gains.

Canada's benchmark index was helped by a modest rebound in commodity prices. Crude oil rose to $87.71 (U.S.) a barrel, up 61 cents. Gold rose to $1,591 an ounce, up nearly $2. However, commodity producers were mixed: Materials fell 0.3 per cent and energy stocks rose 0.3 per cent. Financials fell 0.3 per cent.

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