* TSX drops 323.20 points to 11,071.76
* Lowest TSX close since Sept. 9
* All 10 TSX sectors finish lower (Adds details and comments)
By Frank Pingue
TORONTO, Oct 1 (Reuters) - Toronto’s main stock index skidded nearly 3 percent to its lowest close in more than three weeks on Thursday, hit by a mix of soft commodity prices and weak data from the United States that raised concerns about the strength of economic recovery.
Shares of oil company Suncor Energy (SU.TO), the biggest drag on the index, fell 4.4 percent to C$35.74, while Canadian Natural Resources (CNQ.TO) ended down 3.4 percent at C$69.81.
Heavyweight bank shares were also hit. Royal Bank of Canada (RY.TO) dropped 2.45 percent to C$56.14, while Toronto-Dominion Bank (TD.TO) ended down 2.8 percent at C$66.70.
Fresh off a third-quarter gain of 9.8 percent, the TSX was knocked back after a report that showed the U.S. manufacturing sector expanded in September for a second straight month but at a slower pace than economists expected. [ID:nSP546135]
“We had a better than expected third quarter and so I think people, being wary of the stability of the recovery, are anxious to take profits,” said Michael Sprung, president at Sprung & Co Investment Counsel.
“And you couple that with the disappointing manufacturing number and I think people are, and maybe rightly so, worried about the underlying strength of the economy.”
The S&P/TSX composite index .GSPTSE ended down 323.20 points, or 2.84 percent, at 11,071.76. That marked the TSX’s lowest close since Sept. 9.
All 10 TSX sectors ended lower, led by a 4 percent drop in the materials group, home to gold miners.
Shares of gold miners were unloaded as the price of gold buckled to below $1,000 an ounce before recovering slightly. [GOL/]
Barrick Gold Corp (ABX.TO) shares fell 3.3 percent to C$39.21, while shares of Goldcorp (G.TO) shed 3.4 percent to end the session at C$41.50.
The TSX remains a staggering 48 percent above the five-year low it tumbled to in March. During its charge, most selloffs were followed by renewed spurts of buying.
But Sprung suggested the latest selloff might not be so easy to erase as investors grow concerned about the sustainability of the economic recovery to date, which has been aided by huge amounts of government stimulus.
“Going forward this is going to be an extremely volatile month because I think investors are getting quite concerned.”
Still, a Reuters poll released on Wednesday offered a median forecast that Canada’s main stock index will finish 2009 with a gain of nearly 30 percent due to its heavy weighting in commodity and energy stocks, which would benefit from economic recovery. [ID:nLT394850]