Stocks flat midday

Toronto's main stock index remained slightly in the red by midday Tuesday. led by a decline in energy shares on volatile oil prices and Canadian National Railway Co., after its results, as investors turned to company earnings reports for signs of an economic recovery.

The S&P/TSX Composite Index were negative 4.90 points to greet noon at 12,789.35

The Canadian dollar subsided 0.06 cents to 100.66 cents U.S.

CN Rail slipped 1% to $93.82 after the country's biggest rail carrier reported higher fourth-quarter profit on Tuesday, lifted by a gain in freight volumes and more efficient operations.

Investors have been shifting their attention between macroeconomic concerns and corporate results, and expectations have been muted for the resource sector this quarter.

Information technology issues stepped off their pedestal of the past few days, as Research In Motion endured a slide of 1.4% to $17.16, taking a breather after weeks of steady growth.

Energy stocks were also on the decline, primarily Talisman Energy, tumbling 2% to $12.

Gold shone brighter, though, lifted mostly by Endeavour Mining, up 5.4% to $2.15.

On the economic beat, Statistics Canada reported this morning that retail sales ran their winning streak to five straight months in November, improving 0.2% to $39.4 billion, as higher sales at motor vehicle and parts dealers as well as electronics and appliance stores more than offset declines at most store types.

StatsCan added that, in volume terms, retail sales rose 0.8%.


The TSX Venture Exchange gained 2.09 points, however, to 1,238.69

All but three of the 14 Toronto subgroups were lower by noon, weighed mostly by information technology, subsiding 0.9%, while energy and the metals and mining groups ducked back 0.3% each.

The three gainers were gold, up 1.2%, while global base metals were up 0.8%, and materials took on 0.7%.


U.S. stocks trod uncertainly Tuesday, as investors digested a weaker-than-expected report on the housing market and mixed earnings results.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average poked ahead 24.90 points to pause for lunch at 13,674.60

The S&P 500 slid 0.32 points to 1,485.66. The Nasdaq Composite stepped back 6.21 points to 3,128.50

On the earnings front, Johnson & Johnson shares edged lower after the company reported earnings and sales that were roughly in line with estimates

Travelers shares climbed after the company's fourth-quarter profit beat estimates. Shares of DuPont also rose after the company reported better-than-expected earnings and issued an upbeat outlook.

Verizon reported a wider quarterly loss ahead of the open, but shares gained ground. Wireless carriers are expected to have a rough quarter as profit margins get dinged by high subsidies paid to Apple for the iPhone 5.

Google and IBM are on tap to report after the market close.

Overall, S&P 500 companies are expected to report earnings growth of 3.8% for the last three months of 2012, according to S&P's Capital IQ.

Also in corporate news, shares of Dell gained after CNBC reported that Microsoft was in talks with private equity firm Silver Lake Partners and Dell CEO Michael Dell to invest between $1 billion to $3 billion U.S. in the buyout of the PC maker, citing sources close to the matter.

Economically speaking, the U.S. National Association of Realtors said existing home sales declined in December to an annual rate of 4.94 million from the previous month, which was a surprise as analysts were expecting sales to tick higher.

Despite the surprise month-over-month decline, overall existing home sales in 2012 were the highest for the U.S. real estate market in five years, according to the industry trade group.

Prices on the 10-year U.S. Treasury note grew, lowering yields back to Friday's 1.84%. Treasury prices and yields move in opposite directions.

Oil prices strengthened 46 cents to $96.02 U.S. a barrel.

Gold prices improved $6.90 to $1,693.80 U.S. an ounce.