North American stocks were down in midday trading on Thursday, following a lacklustre U.S. retail sales report and a lack of progress in budget talks.
Shortly after noon, the S&P 500 was down 9 points or 0.7 per cent, to 1419 – threatening to end a six-day winning streak. The blue-chip Dow Jones industrial average was down 69 points or 0.5 per cent, to 13,177. In Canada, the S&P/TSX composite index was down 80 points or 0.7 per cent, to 12,273.
U.S. retail sales rose 0.3 per cent in November, improving over the 0.3 per cent decline in October but less than some on the Street were anticipating.
Initial jobless claims for last week fell by 29,000, to 343,000 – which was a little better than what economists had been expecting.
However, budget negotiations between Republicans and Democrats continue to show no signs of progress, even as the so-called "fiscal cliff" of automatic tax increases and spending cuts looms at the end of the year. On Thursday, House Speaker John Boehner added to the tension, saying that the White House is not serious about cutting spending.
In Europe, leaders agreed to make the European Central Bank the top banking supervisor within the union, which is seen as an important move in taming the debt crisis. However, major European indexes ended lower: The U.K.'s FTSE 100 fell 0.3 per cent and Germany's DAX index fell 0.4 per cent.
Within the S&P 500, health care and technology stocks fell 0.8 per cent each, consumer discretionary stocks fell 0.6 per cent and financials fell 0.4 per cent.
Within Canada's benchmark index, materials fell 2 per cent, energy stocks fell 0.7 per cent and financials fell 0.2 per cent.
Canadian commodity producers were hit by key commodities. Gold fell to $1,698 (U.S.) an ounce, down nearly $20. Crude oil fell to $86.68 a barrel, down 9 cents.
Research In Motion Ltd. continued its winning streak, rising 4.8 per cent – with the latest gain following news that the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement will participate in a pilot program for the new BlackBerry 10, easing concerns that institutional clients are abandoning BlackBerry devices. From its low in September, RIM shares have now rebounded 125 per cent.