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North American stocks are mixed in midday trading, as a flattening of commodity prices triggered profit-taking in the resource-heavy Canadian market, while U.S. stocks cling to small gains as they try to shake off weaker-than-expected U.S. holiday-season retail data.

Shortly after noon ET, the S&P/TSX composite index was up down 60 points at 11,793, while the Dow Jones industrial average was up 22 points at 10,703. The S&P 500 was up 1 point at 1,147 and the Nasdaq composite index was up 7 points at 2,315.

The TSX is being led down by the materials group, off 1.2 per cent, as investors take a stabilizing in gold prices as an opportunity to lock in some recent profits. Gold is up a thin $1.30 (U.S.) at $1,138.10 in New York.

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Overall, seven of the TSX's 10 major industry sub-groups are down, including heavyweights energy (off 0.4 per cent) and financials (down 0.6 per cent). Technology stocks are again leading the upside, with a 1.6-per-cent gain, amid optimism ahead of an earnings report from Intel due after the close, the sector's first major earnings report of the season.

December U.S. retail sales dipped 0.3 per cent from November, far below market expectations of a 0.5-per-cent rise. However, the November numbers were revised upward to a gain of 1.8 per cent from an originally estimated 1.3 per cent, which helps explain some of the December shortfall.

Meanwhile, U.S. weekly new jobless claims moved higher for a second consecutive week, upsetting a recent trend of steady declines, but they were only marginally weaker than economists had anticipated.

The Canadian market got some good news on the earnings front before the opening bell, as both Shaw Communications and Astral Media reported profits that topped analysts' expectations.

Overseas, European bourses closed modestly higher. London's FTSE 100 index gained 0.5 per cent.

Crude oil is down 5 cents (U.S.) at $79.60 a barrel in New York.

The Canadian dollar is up almost half a cent 97.47 cents (U.S.).

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About the Author
Economics Reporter

David Parkinson has been covering business and financial markets since 1990, and has been with The Globe and Mail since 2000. A Calgary native, he received a Southam Fellowship from the University of Toronto in 1999-2000, studying international political economics. More

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