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At midday: Stocks flat as budget talks show little progress

This Nov. 16, 2012 file photo shows President Barack Obama, accompanied by House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio, speaking to reporters in the Roosevelt Room of the White House in Washington.

Carolyn Kaster/AP

Stocks were little changed in midday trading on Thursday as investors weighed rising U.S. home sales against a jump in jobless claims and no progress in budget talks in Washington.

Shortly after noon, the S&P 500 was up 1 point or 0.1 per cent, to 1437. The blue-chip Dow Jones industrial average was down 6 points or zero per cent, to 13,246. In Canada, the S&P/TSX composite index was down 63 points or 0.5 per cent, to 12,340.

U.S. initial jobless claims rose to 361,000 for the period ended last week, up from 344,000 in the previous week, but in line with expectations.

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Existing home sales in November rose 5.9 per cent, to the highest level in three years, topping expectations.

U.S. economic growth in the third quarter rose 3.1 per cent at an annualized pace, in the final revision on gross domestic product. That was up from a second revision of 2.7 per cent.

However, concerns about the so-called U.S. "fiscal cliff" continue to weigh on sentiment, with Barack Obama warning that any vote on the Republican budget proposal would merely delay any final deal. If no deal is made by the end of the year, the economy will face automatic tax increases and spending cuts.

Within the S&P 500, financials rose 0.7 per cent and telecom stocks rose 0.2 per cent. Technology stocks fell 0.3 per cent and consumer discretionary stocks fell 0.2 per cent.

NYSE Euronext surged more than 33 per cent after Intercontinental Exchange Inc. agreed to buy the stock exchange company in a $8.2-billion (U.S.) deal.

In Canada, materials fell 2.2 per cent as the price of gold took another step back: It fell to $1,645 an ounce, down $22.50. Energy stocks fell 0.4 per cent and financials fell 0.1 per cent.

In Europe, major indexes ended the day relatively unchanged. The U.K.'s FTSE 100 fell less than 0.1 per cent while Germany's DAX index rose less than 0.1 per cent.

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