CANADA STOCKS-TSX falls to lowest close since Oct '03

Mon Feb 23, 2009 5:27pm EST
 
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* TSX tumbles to lowest level since Oct 03

* Selloff follows 1 percent rally at open

* Data, commodities and U.S. banks blamed for skid (Adds details)

By Frank Pingue

TORONTO, Feb 23 (Reuters) - Toronto's main stock index fell nearly 4 percent to its lowest closing level in more than five years on Monday, hit by lower commodity prices, weak economic data and nagging concerns about U.S. banks.

All 10 TSX sectors finished lower in a decline headlined by a 5 percent drop in the big energy sector as persistent fears of a prolonged global slowdown weighed on oil prices.

EnCana Corp ECA.TO led the energy group lower as its shares tumbled 7.2 percent to C$44.78, followed by TransCanada Corp TRP.TO, which ended down 5.9 percent at C$30.10.

The slide in oil prices followed weak Canadian retail sales data for December that puts pressure on the Bank of Canada to cut interest rates below the current 50-year low of 1 percent at its next policy announcement date on March 3.

"While it's not a significant data point in and of itself, it just confirms what many investors have been fearing, that this recession is much deeper and much longer than what we had believed a few months ago," said Elvis Picardo, analyst and strategist at Global Securities in Vancouver.   Continued...