TORONTO (Reuters) - Toronto's main stock index hit its lowest level in more than three months on Monday following much weaker-than-expected U.S. jobs data on Friday, though a rally in gold mining shares helped cushion the fall.
Markets had been closed on Friday for the Good Friday holiday.
A mix of resources and financials were among the heaviest decliners. Potash Corp (POT.TO) fell 2.1 percent to C$43.94, insurer Manulife Financial (MFC.TO) dropped 3.1 percent to C$12.73, and Royal Bank of Canada (RY.TO) lost 0.7 percent to C$56.55.
"People kept saying we're going to have some sort of a pullback, and you never know exactly what's going to happen but Friday was what happened basically, the poor employment report in the U.S.," said Ian Nakamoto, director of research at MacDougall, MacDougall & MacTier.
"To his credit, Bernanke has been warning about a poor jobs recovery and maybe we didn't listen enough to it," Nakamoto added, in reference to U.S. Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke
The U.S. Labor Department reported that employers added 120,000 jobs last month, far below the median forecast for 203,000 new jobs and the smallest increase since October.
The unexpectedly sharp slowdown in U.S. jobs growth cast doubt over the ability of the United States to help boost the global economy as Europe's debt crisis resurfaces and worries remain whether China's economy will avoid a hard landing.
Surprisingly soft producer prices data in China sparked concerns of waning demand, reinforcing expectations that a cooling economy has eclipsed inflation as the Chinese government's biggest near-term worry.
The Toronto Stock Exchange's S&P/TSX composite index .GSPTSE ended down 84.61 points, or 0.70 percent, at 12,018.50, marking a fourth straight session of declines. The TSX is up only 0.5 percent so far in 2012 versus a nearly 10 percent gain in the S&P 500 .SPX.
On the upside, Canada's safe-haven gold miners helped Toronto stocks outperform Wall Street on Monday. They climbed 0.7 percent as the price of bullion approached $1,650 an ounce after the below-forecast U.S. jobs report revived hopes for fresh monetary easing and a spike in Chinese inflation boosted the appetite for the metal. <GOL/>
"A lot of the buyers have backed away ... but the Toronto market isn't down that much. ... Golds are trying to find a level here and they're all looking a little bit better," said Bruce Latimer, trader at Dundee Securities. "They've been beaten up pretty good for the last two weeks."
Latimer noted that volume on Monday was especially light, with many market players off for the Easter holiday.
Struggling BlackBerry maker Research in Motion RIM.TO was among the most influential gainers, up 2.9 percent to C$12.98.
Editing by Leslie Adler