CANADA STOCKS-TSX touches 8-1/2 month low on U.S. woes
* TSX ends down 193.31 points at 12,752.32
* Nine of 10 main sectors weaker, golds rally (Updates to close, adds details, commentary)
By Claire Sibonney
TORONTO, Aug 2 (Reuters) - Toronto's main stock index hit its worst level since November on Tuesday as weak U.S. data fueled economic fears even though Congress approved a debt deal in time to avoid a U.S. government default.
Battered financial and energy shares, both down more than 2 percent, led the decline after a succession of poor U.S. data releases since last week sent investors fleeing to safer-haven assets, including gold, which surged to its ninth record high this year.
Suncor Energy SU.TO was the most heavily weighted decliner on the index, down 3.7 percent at C$35.28, followed by Bank of Nova Scotia BNS.TO, off 3 percent at C$52.54.
The retreat came on the heels of tepid U.S. and global manufacturing data on Monday, when most Canadian markets were closed for provincial holidays, and very disappointing U.S. GDP figures last Friday.
In economic data on Tuesday, U.S. consumer spending dropped in June for the first time in nearly two years and incomes barely rose, signs the economy lacked momentum as the second quarter drew to a close. [nN1E7710A7]
"The whole U.S. debt ceiling issue had transfixed the markets, but unfortunately the focus is now turning to the lack of strength in the U.S. economy," said Elvis Picardo, strategist and vice president of research at Global Securities in Vancouver.
The Toronto Stock Exchange's S&P/TSX composite index .GSPTSE ended down 193.31 points, or 1.49 percent, at 12,752.32. Right before the close, the index hit it weakest level since Nov. 18.
Nine of the index's 10 main groups were lower with gold-mining shares the one bright spot. Barrick Gold Corp ABX.TO led the gainers, rising 2.4 percent to C$46.65.
The next major data point to watch will be monthly U.S. employment numbers on Friday.
"We need an exceptional employment number to snap us out of this funk," Picardo said. He noted, however, that even a mild rise in the U.S. jobs numbers could have some positive impact on markets.
"The market is bracing itself for disappointment and if the numbers come to be anything less than disastrous, it's quite possible that we might get a rally."
($1=$0.96 Canadian) (Reporting by Claire Sibonney; editing by Peter Galloway)
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