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At midday: S&P 500 dips with consumer sentiment, Intel outlook

North American stocks were mixed in midday trading on Friday as investors digested an acceleration in Chinese economic growth, a slide in U.S. consumer sentiment and a gloomy outlook from Intel Corp.

Shortly after noon, the S&P 500 was down 4 points or 0.3 per cent, to 1477, retreating from a five-year high. The blue-chip Dow Jones industrial average was down 17 points or 0.1 per cent, to 13,579. In Canada, the S&P/TSX composite index was up 55 points or 0.4 per cent, to 12,730.

China reported that its economy grew 7.9 per cent in the fourth quarter, year-over-year, up from 7.4 per cent growth in the third quarter, alleviating concerns that it is headed for a hard landing.

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Closer to home, things looked less upbeat. The preliminary reading for the University of Michigan sentiment index fell to a 13-month low of 71.3, down from December and below expectations for a rise in sentiment.

The decline followed a budget agreement in Washington that averted the so-called "fiscal cliff" – yet politicians continue to struggle over the next potential economic pitfall of extending the country's debt ceiling.

Within the S&P 500, technology stocks fell 0.9 per cent, financials fell 0.5 per cent and consumer discretionary stocks fell 0.4 per cent. Defensive telecom stocks rose 0.4 per cent and utilities rose 0.3 per cent.

The latest round of earnings reports were mixed.

Intel fell 6.7 per cent after reporting that its sales in the fourth quarter fell 3 per cent. The chip-maker also expressed concerns about sales in the current quarter.

General Electric Co. rose 3.1 per cent after reporting that its operating earnings rose 13 per cent, to $4.7-billion (U.S.) or 44 cents a share, slightly ahead of expectations.

Morgan Stanley rose 7.6 per cent after its earnings rebounded to $505-million or 25 cents a share, topping expectations.

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Within Canada's benchmark index, the gains were broad: Technology stocks rose 2.1 per cent, industrials rose 0.7 per cent, financials and materials rose 0.5 per cent each and energy stocks rose 0.3 per cent.

Research In Motion Ltd. rose 7 per cent after Jefferies analyst Peter Misek upgraded the stock to a "buy" recommendation and raised his price target to $19.50 from $13.

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

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About the Author
Investing Reporter

David Berman has been writing about business and investing since 1995. He has written for a number of magazines, including Canadian Business and MoneySense. He worked at the Financial Post as an investing writer and daily columnist before moving to the Globe and Mail in 2008. More

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