UPDATE 1-Toronto stocks fall, girding for economic slowdown

Wed Jan 23, 2008 10:15am EST
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TORONTO Jan 23 (Reuters) - The Toronto Stock Exchange's main index fell sharply on Wednesday morning, shaken once again by the prospect of a slowing global economy and falling commodity prices.

The S&P/TSX composite index .GSPTSE was down 240.03 points, or 1.9 percent, at 12,400.85. It was down as much as 310 points shortly after trading began.

Fears of a U.S. recession pushed all sectors lower, with materials down 3.4 percent and energy down 3 percent.

A mixed bag of stocks represented the biggest weighted losers.

BlackBerry-maker Research In Motion RIM.TO led the charge, down C$7.76 at C$85.52. Manulife Financial (MFC.TO: Quote) fell C$1.35 to C$34.61, and fertilizer producer Potash Corp of Saskatchewan (POT.TO: Quote) dropped C$5.02 to C$121.86.

Canadian National Railway (CNR.TO: Quote), which reported higher fourth-quarter profits late on Tuesday, was off 8 Canadian cents at C$44.81. For details, see: [nN22549127]

Commodity prices eased across the board, taking a cue from equity markets in Europe and North America. U.S. crude oil was off more than $1 at near $88 a barrel.

Adding further credence to the perception of a slowing economy, Canada's composite leading indicator fell by 0.1 percent in December. For details, see: [nN23613317]

On Monday, the TSX dropped more than 600 points; on Tuesday, it rose more than 500 points. The index is off more than 10 percent so far this year.

($1=$1.03 Canadian) (Reporting by Jonathan Spicer; Editing by Peter Galloway)