North American stocks were down slightly in midday trading on Monday, following a disappointing reading on U.S. service-sector activity last month and ahead of Presidential elections on Tuesday.
Shortly after noon, the Dow Jones industrial average was down 15 points or 0.1 per cent, to 13,078. The broader S&P 500 was down 1 point or nearly 0.1 per cent, to 1413. In Canada, the S&P/TSX composite index was down 14 points or 0.1 per cent, to 12,367.
The ISM report on U.S. non-manufacturing activity in October fell to 54.2, down from 55.1 in September. While that remains in expansion territory, economists had been expecting a better reading of 54.5. Non-manufacturing activity represents about 90 per cent of U.S. economic activity.
But markets are probably more concerned about what's still coming this week: The U.S. Presidential elections will be held on Tuesday, and results could have a profound impact on how the country deals with its deficit, its taxes and its relations with China.
Within the S&P 500, economically defensive stocks tended to be the biggest laggards. Utilities fell 1.5 per cent, telecom stocks fell 0.7 per cent and consumer staples fell 0.3 per cent. Many economically sensitive stocks did better: Tech and energy stocks rose 0.3 per cent each and industrials rose 0.2 per cent.
Within Canada's benchmark index, materials rose 0.4 per cent and industrials rose 0.1 per cent. Financials and energy stocks fell 0.2 per cent each.
Among commodities, gold rose to $1,682 (U.S.) an ounce, up more than $4 – a modest rebound after touching its lowest level since the end of August. Crude oil rose to $85.05 a barrel, up 19 cents. On Friday, it hit its lowest level since July.
In Europe, stocks fell amid more uncertainty over whether Greece will be able to meet conditions for its next bailout round. The U.K.'s FTSE 100 and Germany's DAX index fell 0.5 per cent each.