CANADA STOCKS-TSX falls broadly with energy leading the way

Thu Dec 18, 2008 5:30pm EST
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* Toronto, TSX Venture exchanges open after Wednesday halt

* Energy leads TSX lower as oil falls well below $40

* Nine of 10 subgroups lower (Adds comment, details)

By Cameron French

TORONTO Dec 18 (Reuters) - Toronto's main stock index fell nearly 300 points on Thursday as plunging oil prices hammered energy issues, while materials and financial stocks felt the sting of deepening worries about the health of the global economy.

With the exchange shut down on Wednesday due to technical problems, trading volumes soared to near-record levels as pent-up selling demand put heavy pressure on the the energy and materials sectors in particular.

Oil prices dropped to about $36 a barrel -- on slumping demand and swelling U.S. inventories, building on a sharp drop from the previous day that had not been factored into Toronto-listed stocks.

The energy sector dropped 7.2 percent, while materials issues retreated 5.7 percent as gold stocks on other exchanges were also weaker on Wednesday.

Oil and gas producer Nexen NXY.TO fell 8 percent to C$20.58, while Goldcorp dropped 12.4 percent to C$34.49.   Continued...