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The close: Dow, TSX flat after topsy-turvy day Add to ...

Stocks closed on Tuesday relatively flat, surrendering earlier gains following weak reports on U.S. consumer confidence and business activity in the Chicago region, and a number of disappointing earnings reports.

The Dow Jones industrial average closed at 12,632.91, down 20.81 points or 0.2 per cent. The broader S&P 500 closed at 1312.40, down 0.61 point. In Canada, the S&P/TSX composite index closed at 12,452.15, up 15.73 points or 0.1 per cent.

The day had begun looking far brighter. An agreement on Monday evening among European leaders to build closer fiscal ties and make a permanent bailout fund eased concerns about the sovereign-debt crisis – reflected by tumbling yields on Italian, Spanish and Portuguese government bonds.

However, U.S. economic reports disappointed expectations. A report on consumer confidence declined slightly, pointing to weak consumer spending. The Chicago Purchasing Managers Index also slipped from the previous month, disappointing expectations for a slight gain.

And to cap off the economic disappointments, Canada’s economy shrank 0.1 per cent in November, versus expectations for a gain of 0.2 per cent – setting up fourth-quarter growth to come in below the Bank of Canada’s forecasts.

Meanwhile, the latest batch of earnings announcements weren’t exactly embraced warmly by investors. After reporting their respective quarterly results, Exxon Mobil Corp. fell 1.6 per cent, United Parcel Service Inc. fell 0.7 per cent and Pfizer Inc. fell 0.8 per cent.

After markets closed, Amazon.com Inc. reported that its net income fell to $177-million (U.S.) or 38 cents a share in the fourth quarter, down from 91 cents last year – even as revenue surged 35 per cent. The shares rose 1.2 per cent during regular trading hours, but slumped 9 per cent in after hours activity.

Canadian banks barely budged: Royal Bank of Canada fell 0.1 per cent and Toronto-Dominion Bank rose 0.1 per cent. Energy stocks were mixed after the price of crude oil fell from earlier gains, closing at $98.48 a barrel, down 30 cents. Suncor Energy Inc. and Canadian Oil Sands Ltd. rose 0.6 per cent each, but Canadian Natural Resources Ltd. fell 0.3 per cent.

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