TORONTO (Reuters) - Canadian stocks tumbled on Friday, led by energy and financial issues as economic data on both sides of the Atlantic raised fears of a global slump and sent investors out of riskier assets into gold and other safe havens.
After one of the worst Mays in recent years for equity markets, June began badly on a backdrop of euro zone debt worries, a tentative recovery in the United States and more moderate growth in China.
Markets extended losses after U.S. jobs growth in May was the weakest in a year, suggesting a faltering U.S. economic recovery.
“Today’s jobs number was just the tipping point and the markets just went into full pessimism mode,” said Philip Petursson, managing director of the portfolio advisory group at Manulife Asset Management.
Nine of Canada’s 10 main sectors finished in the red. Losses were sharpest among the oil and gas group, which dropped 3.3 percent as U.S. crude oil futures settled at its lowest level in nearly eight months.
Declines were led by Canadian Natural Resources, down 3.7 percent to C$28.56, Cenovus Energy, off 4.7 percent at C$31.03, and Enbridge Inc, which sank 3 percent to C$39.60.
Petursson said Canada’s energy index, down almost 15 percent since the beginning of May, has been hurt by speculators getting out of the oil trade as prices fall.
The Toronto Stock Exchange’s S&P/TSX composite index closed down 152.01 points, or 1.3 percent, at 11,361.20. It was down 1.9 percent for the week.
The sell-off was compounded by dreary global manufacturing data. China’s slowdown worsened in May as its factories saw a further deterioration in demand at home and abroad. In Europe, the euro zone manufacturing index reached its lowest level since June 2009, and British manufacturing activity shrank at its fastest pace in three years.
A U.S. manufacturing gauge showed national factory activity slipped to 53.5 from 54.8 in April.
The declines spurred speculation the European Central Bank and U.S. Federal Reserve may be forced to implement additional stimulus measures to calm investors on both sides of the Atlantic.
“It’s pretty dramatic times,” said Paul Hand, managing director at RBC Capital Markets. “A policy response is probably going to be called for here, including concerted action with the Fed and quantitative easing.”
Data on Friday showed the Canadian economy grew less in the first quarter than the Bank of Canada had expected. The soft GDP data tempered speculation of an interest rate hike.
Canadian financials, which have far less exposure to risky euro zone debt holdings than their global counterparts, still tumbled 2.8 percent on Friday. Despite solid second-quarter bank earnings, Canada’s top lenders led the slide.
Royal Bank of Canada sank 3 percent to C$49.99, Toronto-Dominion Bank was down 2.8 percent at C$76.88 and Bank of Nova Scotia shed 3 percent to C$51.40.
The negative global news was a boon to gold stocks, which jumped nearly 7 percent as bullion rallied above $1,600 an ounce on safe-haven buying. Gains were led by top gold producers Barrick Gold, up 7.5 percent at C$43.65 and Goldcorp Inc, which rose 8.6 percent to C$40.93.
“On a day like today you’re either buying U.S. Treasuries or you’re buying gold,” said Petursson.