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At midday: Stocks dive as earnings season hits a bump

North American stocks were down sharply in midday trading on Friday, after a slew of disappointing quarterly results from key U.S. companies raised alarms that corporate profitability is struggling within a weak global economy.

Shortly after noon, the Dow Jones industrial average was down 150 points or 1.1 per cent, to 13,399. The broader S&P 500 was down 17 points or 1.2 per cent, to 1440. In Canada, the S&P/TSX composite index was down 74 points or 0.6 per cent, to 12,392.

General Electric Co. fell 2.9 per cent after it reported third-quarter revenues that were below analyst's expectations, even as its earnings rose 8.3 per cent.

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McDonald's Corp. fell 3.6 per cent after reporting that its earnings fell 3.5 per cent in the third quarter, due to slower-than-expected sales at existing stores and currency fluctuations.

On Thursday after markets closed, Microsoft Corp. said that its earnings fell 22 per cent in its fiscal first quarter, a bigger-than-expected decline ahead of the launch of its new operating system, Windows 8. The shares fell 3 per cent.

In Canada, Astral Media Inc. plunged 15.4 per cent after Canada's broadcast regulator killed its friendly merger with BCE Inc. in a surprise move on Thursday. BCE shares fell 1.6 per cent.

Apart from these highlights, the declines were broad. Within the S&P 500, all 10 subindexes were down, with economically sensitive areas suffering the biggest declines. Materials fell 1.8 per cent, technology stocks fell 1.7 per cent and industrials and consumer discretionary stocks fell 1.5 per cent each.

Within Canada's benchmark index, consumer discretionary stocks fell 1.1 per cent, materials and telecom stocks fell 0.7 per cent each, financials fell 0.5 per cent and energy stocks fell 0.4 per cent.

The selloff affected overseas markets as well. In Europe, the U.K.'s FTSE 100 fell 0.4 per cent and Germany's DAX index fell 0.8 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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