UPDATE 3-Toronto stocks hammered by credit woes, resources

Mon Mar 17, 2008 4:36pm EDT
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(Updates official closing numbers, adds details)

TORONTO, March 17 (Reuters) - The Toronto Stock Exchange's main index ended sharply lower on Monday as it suffered the double whammy of weak resource issues and further worries over the global credit crisis.

Taking its cue from international markets, the TSX skidded more than 300 points immediately after the opening bell in a steep selloff following the purchase of Bear Stearns BSC.N by JP Morgan Chase (JPM.N: Quote) for the fire sale price of $2 a share.

Worries over how deeply a stumbling U.S. economy will infect the rest of the world and whether a slowdown will slash global demand for resources drove Toronto's heavyweight energy and financial sectors down 2.8 percent and 2.5 percent respectively.

Shares of banks and resource companies were among the biggest weights on the index, with National Bank of Canada (NA.TO: Quote) falling C$1.54, or 3.4 percent, to C$44.39 and Canadian Natural Resources (CNQ.TO: Quote) down C$3.07, or 4.2 percent, at C$69.65.

The energy sector was also hurt by a decline in the price of oil, which retreated $4.53 to $105.68 a barrel, while investors traded in futures in favor of cash.

The S&P/TSX composite index .GSPTSE closed down 300.69 points, or 2.27 percent, at 12,952.15 with all but one of its 10 main groups in the negative. The index managed to gain back some losses after falling by more than 400 points in the afternoon.

The materials sector, home to resource shares, tumbled amid worries over global demand, falling 1.8 percent. Potash Corp of Saskatchewan (POT.TO: Quote) fell C$3.69, or 2.3 percent, to C$154.45 while Inmet Mining IMN.TO was off C$3.83, or 4.5 percent, at C$81.71.

The Toronto benchmark's strong weighting in resources, which make up nearly half the index, kept it much more deeply below water than its U.S. counterparts.   Continued...