UPDATE 4-Toronto stocks in biggest intraday drop since 2001

Mon Jan 21, 2008 2:57pm EST
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(Updates figures, adds details, comments)

TORONTO Jan 21 (Reuters) - The Toronto Stock Exchange's main index fell for a fifth straight session on Monday, diving more than 4 percent in its biggest intraday drop in seven years, amid concern about the health of the U.S. economy.

The S&P/TSX composite index .GSPTSE was down 520.10 points, or 4.08 percent, at 12,217.02 in afternoon trading, after earlier falling as much as 617 points. All of the TSX's 10 main groups were lower.

It was the biggest intraday decline since Feb. 16, 2001, and the latest in a string of hefty losses that began last week amid writedowns in the North American banking sector and worries about the prospect of a U.S. recession.

Since last Tuesday, the index has lost more than 1,400 points, erasing all of 2007's gains. On Monday, the index revisited territory last seen in November 2006.

The Toronto benchmark index took its cue from world equitymarkets, which slumped on Monday on jitters that a U.S. slowdown could hurt the world's economies.

"There's a great deal of uncertainty around," said John Ing, president of Maison Placements Canada.

"Everyday there seems to be a new credit problem, there seems to be a disappointing corporate loss, so it's adding up that this bear market is just getting its teeth in the arm of the market."

On Monday, resource issues suffered the biggest losses, with the energy and materials sectors giving up 5.1 percent and 4.9 percent respectively.   Continued...