UPDATE 4-Toronto stocks end at 10-mth low on recession woes

Thu Jan 17, 2008 5:32pm EST
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(Adds details, quotes, updates TSX close)

By Leah Schnurr

TORONTO Jan 17 (Reuters) - The Toronto Stock Exchange's main index plunged again on Thursday, as fears of a U.S. recession prompted a slump in resource and financial issues, leading to a third straight day of hefty losses.

In a freefall that began on Tuesday, the index has racked up losses of more than 900 points, erasing all of 2007's gains and sending it to a 10-month closing low.

The energy and materials sectors were the biggest drag on the index on Thursday, stung by weaker commodity prices and jitters over the impact that a global slowdown could have on the demand for resources.

Data out of the U.S. showing a sharp contraction in regional factory activity, as well as a dark assessment of the economy by Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke, helped heighten concerns that the United States, Canada's biggest trading partner, could fall into a recession.

Potash Corp of Saskatchewan (POT.TO: Quote) was the largest net decliner on the TSX after an analyst questioned a build-up in North American potash inventory in December.

The world's largest fertilizer producer skidded C$13.90, or 10.1 percent, to C$124.00. The materials sector was down 4 percent.

"I'd be hard pressed to think of a time when we've had such a big decline in the TSX for three days in a row," said Elvis Picardo, investment strategist at Northern Securities Inc, in Vancouver.   Continued...