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The Globe and Mail

At the open: Dow, TSX slump after U.S. retail sales disappoint

Investors on Tuesday morning might have shrugged off the European credit-rating downgrades by Moody's Investors Service, but they haven't been able to look beyond a disappointing reading on U.S. retail sales for January.

The Dow Jones industrial average fell 21 points or 0.2 per cent, to 12,853. The broader S&P 500 fell 3 points or 0.2 per cent, to 1349. In Canada, the S&P/TSX composite index fell 20 points or 0.2 per cent, to 12,379.

Futures activity had pointed to a rise in major markets, despite the fact that Moody's cut its rating on six European countries on Monday evening. However, U.S. retail sales rose just 0.4 per cent in January, well below expectations for a gain of 0.8 per cent – with auto sales taking most of the blame.

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Ford Motor Co. fell 0.6 per cent. In other moves, Bank of America Corp. fell 1.9 per cent, Alcoa Inc. fell 1.4 per cent and Microsoft Corp. fell 1.1 per cent.

Among Canadian stocks, Canadian Natural Resources Ltd. fell 3.6 per cent after shutting down its Horizons oil sands plant and cutting its 2012 production estimates, revealing that damage at the plant was more extensive than first estimated.

TransCanada Corp. rose 0.4 per cent after reporting fourth-quarter earnings of 53 cents a share, in line with expectations. It also boosted its dividend by 5 per cent.

RioCan Real Estate Investment Trust was unchanged after it reported a 20 per cent gain in its funds from operations, to 36 cents a unit.

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