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A trader looks at bond auction results on a trading floor in Madrid July 5, 2012.

ANDREA COMAS/REUTERS

North American stocks continued to struggle in midday trading on Tuesday, even as Alcoa Inc. kicked off the second quarter earnings season on a relatively good note and European bond yields subsided.

At noon, the Dow Jones industrial average was up 22 points or 0.2 per cent, to 12,758.

The broader S&P 500 was down 1 point or 0.1 per cent – putting it on track for its fourth straight decline, or its worst slump since May.

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In Canada, the S&P/TSX composite index was down 40 points or 0.3 per cent, to 11,595.

Stocks had begun on a much stronger note, with the Dow rising by more than 90 points near the start of trading.

Alcoa, which beat analysts' revenue and operating earnings estimates when it reported its quarterly results on Monday afternoon, was down 3.4 per cent in midday trading; in after hours trading on Monday, the shares had risen about 1 per cent.

The grinding moves in North America stand in contrast to upbeat conditions in Europe, where investors cheered an agreement among finance ministers to extend Spain's deadline for reducing its budget deficit.

Major indexes moved higher: Germany's DAX index and the U.K.'s FTSE 100 rose 0.9 per cent each.

The gains follow some relief in the bond market as well, where yields declined for government bonds of some of the more indebted nations.

The yield on Spain's 10-year government bond fell to 6.73 per cent, down 25 basis points, after troubling gains in recent trading action.

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The yield on Italy's 10-year government bond fell to 5.92 per cent, down 15 basis points. There are 100 basis points in a percentage point.

Within the S&P 500, defensive stocks were generally stronger while economically sensitive areas struggled. Consumer staples rose 0.5 per cent, while utilities and telecom stocks rose 0.3 per cent each.

Energy stocks fell 0.7 per cent, technology stocks fell 0.6 per cent and materials fell 0.5 per cent.

Within Canada's benchmark index, technology stocks fell 1.7 per cent after Research In Motion Ltd. conducted its annual meeting with shareholders.

The shares, which had been showing some strength last week, fell 4.1 per cent.

Commodity producers were also weak, with materials down 0.9 per cent and energy stocks fell 0.5 per cent.

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