UPDATE 3-Toronto stock index hits lowest level since 2004

Thu Oct 16, 2008 12:47pm EDT
 
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* Market swings erratically on investor jitters

* Index is down more than 20 percent since end September

* Materials sector down 6.6 pct, oil group off 1 pct

(Updates figures to noon)

TORONTO, Oct 16 (Reuters) - The Toronto Stock Exchange's S&P/TSX composite index .GSPTSE chopped its losses in half at noon on Thursday after falling to its lowest level since November 2004 earlier in the day as jittery investors weighed the risk of recession as commodity prices weakened.

Softening resource prices put yet another chill on the index's heavily-weighted energy and materials sectors, pushing the index down more than 100 points minutes after the opening bell. It then reversed course and raced higher, only to see all 10 main sectors quickly turn negative again, dropping more than 500 points at one point.

Shortly after 12:20 p.m. (1620 GMT), the S&P/TSX composite index .GSPTSE was down 171.30 points, or 1.8 percent, at 9,152.55.

A 6.6 percent drop in the materials sector, which includes miners and fertilizer issues, led the decline. The gold-mining subindex was off earlier lows but still down 6.9 percent. Barrick Gold ABX.TO fell 8.4 percent to C$30.42, and Agnico-Eagle was down 11 percent at C$42.01.

The composite index is down more than 20 percent since September. It has erased the record burst higher at the start of this week that had helped make up for last week's 16-percent drop.   Continued...