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TORONTO (Reuters) - Toronto's main stock index tumbled to its lowest level in nearly two weeks on Monday as material and financial issues were hurt by weak European data and political tensions that heightened concerns about the region's ability to tackle its debt crisis.
Global stocks and the euro slumped as a Dutch political impasse and disappointing euro zone data revived fears the debt crisis could keep much of Europe mired in recession through the year. <MKTS/GLOB>
"Austerity tends to not work without large political implications as the public will tend to vote out governments that they feel are too austere," said Arthur Salzer, chief executive officer of Northland Wealth Management.
"We can see that in France and Holland in today's news as the public will tend not to tolerate the 'medicine' necessary to shrink debt."
All 10 sectors of the Canadian stock market were down sharply. Heavily-weighted materials led the losses, falling 2.9 percent as prices for key commodities like gold and copper also sold off. <GOL/> <MET/L>
The most influential movers on the downside included Potash Corp (POT.TO), which slid 2.7 percent to C$42.43, Teck Resources TCKb.TO, down 3.7 percent at C$35.33, and top gold producers Goldcorp Inc (G.TO), down 3.4 percent to C$39.65, and Barrick Gold (ABX.TO), which slid 1.7 percent to C$39.39.
The Toronto Stock Exchange's S&P/TSX composite index .GSPTSE finished down 158.33 points, or 1.3 percent, to 11,988.95, its lowest close in nearly two weeks.
The index hit a session low at 11,919.13, not far from its yearly low of 11,868.97 set on April 10.
The turmoil in Europe hurt the Canadian financial sector, which sank 1 percent, dragged down by Toronto-Dominion Bank (TD.TO), which slid 1.3 percent to C$82.81, and Bank of Nova Scotia (BNS.TO), down 0.9 percent to C$54.28.
"The political developments in Europe have highlighted a pushback against austerity measures and the data out of the euro zone disappointed and overshadowed what was an improvement in China's flash PMI," said Fergal Smith, managing market strategist at Action Economics.
The economic outlook for Europe was hurt by poor flash Purchasing Manager's Indexes (PMIs) for April, which are a guide to future activity. The reports for the euro zone, Germany and France pointed to a much faster rate of economic contraction across the debt-laden region than had been expected. <EUR/PMIS>
After testing its April low, Smith said the TSX was now targeting the 50 percent retracement of the October-March rally that comes in at 11,818, for further support.
On the brighter side, a private sector purchasing managers survey from China showed factories posted their best performance this year as a measure of new business rose from multi-month lows, though overall activity still contracted for a sixth successive month.
Additional reporting by Claire Sibonney; Editing by Jeffrey Hodgson