June 20, 2013 / 12:43 PM / 4 years ago

TSX plunges to two-month low as Fed sends markets reeling

People attend a market open ceremony for the Toronto Stock Exchange at the TSX Broadcast Centre in Toronto June 20, 2008.Mark Blinch

TORONTO (Reuters) - Canada's main stock index suffered its biggest one-day drop in more than two months on Thursday after the U.S. Federal Reserve's nod toward exiting its stimulus program hit global markets and triggered a massive selloff in gold-mining shares.

The decline took the Toronto index to its lowest point in more than two months.

Investors stared at a sea of red as every major index sector ended in negative territory. Gold miners fell the hardest, dropping 7.3 percent as bullion prices hit a 2-1/2-year low. <GOL/>

The market also reacted to data that showed Chinese factory activity weakened to a nine-month low in June as demand faltered, heightening the risk of a sharp second-quarter slowdown.

U.S. Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke said on Wednesday the economy is expanding strongly enough for the central bank to begin slowing the pace of its bond-buying stimulus later this year.

While markets have been roiled in recent weeks by fears that the Fed will take its foot of the gas pedal, the U.S. central bank's latest pronouncement sent global markets tumbling.

"Anytime there is a change in monetary policy, it gets sloppy for a while," said Diana Avigdor, portfolio manager and head of trading at Barometer Capital Management.

"After a robust correction, nothing's really changed except for a confirmation that the economy might be going in the right direction, but slowly."

The Toronto Stock Exchange's S&P/TSX composite index .GSPTSE closed down 299.72 points, or 2.44 percent, at 11,968.57.

"I don't think we're headed for a catastrophic global recession, but investors need some time to assess this," said Elvis Picardo, strategist and vice president of research at Global Securities in Vancouver.

"We are in for a period of renewed volatility as investors digest this news," he added. "But they need to look past what Bernanke said and need to believe that the underlying message is the U.S. economy is getting on a firm footing and that's why the stimulus measures are coming off."

All of the 10 main sectors on the index were in the red

Financials, the index's most heavily weighted sector, were down 1.7 percent. In the group, Royal Bank of Canada (RY.TO), the country's biggest lender, fell 2.9 percent to C$58.92 and played the biggest role of any single stock in leading the market down. Bank of Nova Scotia (BNS.TO) dropped 2.7 percent to C$55.41.

Energy shares gave back 2.3 percent, with lower oil prices further weighing on sentiment. <O/R> Suncor Energy Inc (SU.TO) was down 2.2 percent at C$30.83.

The materials sector, which includes mining stocks, lost 5.7 percent as gold miners retreated. Barrick Gold Corp (ABX.TO) dropped 7.8 percent to C$17.10, and Goldcorp Inc (G.TO) fell 7.9 percent to C$24.81.

Rona Inc RON.TO said it has struck a deal to sell its plumbing, heating, ventilation and air conditioning business to Emco Corp, and expects net proceeds of C$215 million. The home improvement chain's stock fell 1.1 percent to C$10.13.

The market also reacted to signs at the Paris Airshow this week that Bombardier's shift upmarket may be backfiring as its arch-rival in the small passenger jet category, Embraer, piled on orders for an upgraded plane and a new Japanese challenger vowed to win business. Bombardier (BBDb.TO) shares were down 2.2 percent at C$4.53.

($1=$1.03 Canadian)

Editing by Peter Galloway

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