* TSX down 46.37 points, or 0.34 pct, at 13,572.46
* Energy, base metals rebound (Updates to afternoon)
By Claire Sibonney
TORONTO, March 15 (Reuters) - Toronto’s main stock index regained much of its steep losses on Tuesday afternoon as investors scooped up beaten down shares following a major selloff earlier in the day in the wake of Japanese disaster.
Fears of a radiation leak in Japan after an explosion at a quake-crippled nuclear power plant hammered world stock markets and fueled a broad selloff in commodities such as oil, base metals and even safe-haven golds as investors raced to liquid assets like cash. [MKTS/GLOB] [ID:nL3E7EF3II]
Toronto’s energy sector made the strongest recovery, erasing all of the day’s losses to post a gain of 0.1 percent by late afternoon, despite U.S. crude ending nearly 4 percent lower. [O/R]
Suncor Energy (SU.TO) was still off 0.2 percent to C$42.00, but Canadian Natural Resources (CNQ.TO) rallied 1.7 percent to C$45.82.
“It’s been a wild ride to say the least ... we’ve seen a bit of panic selling this morning and I think the street maybe was getting short, and some value investors are coming back in the market,” said Francis Campeau, broker at MF Global Canada in Montreal.
“It’s the first real dip we’ve seen since last September ... so some bottom pickers have come out and been buying it all day.”
Base-metal miners were also sharply higher, up 1.6 percent, despite the price of copper plunging to a three-month low. Teck Resources TCKb.TO surged 4.2 percent to C$51.63.
At 3:28 p.m. (1928 GMT), the Toronto Stock Exchange’s S&P/TSX composite index .GSPTSE was down only 46.37 points, or 0.34 percent, at 13,572.46. Earlier, it fell as low as 13,237.93, its lowest level since Jan. 25 and was down almost 8 percent since multi-year highs hit last week.
Uranium producers remained among the heaviest decliners, as were insurers and gold miners.
Uranium One UUU.TO was off almost 8 percent at C$3.96, but Cameco Corp (CCO.TO) clawed back most of its losses and was virtually unchanged around C$31.67.
Barrick Gold Corp (ABX.TO) shed 2.5 percent to C$48.38, and Manulife Financial MFC.TO dropped 3.9 percent to C$16.08.
Campeau said after testing support near 13,200, the next major level to watch on the TSX will be the 200-day moving average around 12,600.
($1=$0.98 Canadian) (Reporting by Claire Sibonney; editing by Rob Wilson)