Market pains drag loonie to lowest point since mid-2004

TORONTO -- Another big drop in the price of oil sent North American equity markets into sharp retreat in a sell-off that also took the commodity-sensitive Canadian dollar below 73 cents for the first time since mid-2004.

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In Toronto, the S&P/TSX composite index lost 1.7 per cent of its value, closing down 226.64 points to settle at 12,789.95.

The Canadian dollar, which has hit several new 11-year lows since it closed last week at 74.76 cents U.S., was down another 0.59 of a cent Friday at 72.77 cents U.S.

In New York, the Dow Jones average plunged 309.54 points to 17,265.21, while the broader S&P 500 fell 39.86 points to 2,012.37 and the Nasdaq shed 111.70 points to 4,933.47.

Traders headed for exits as oil fell below US$36 a barrel in the wake of a report by the International Energy Agency that said the global oversupply of crude would continue until late next year.

The January contract for benchmark U.S. crude oil was down $1.14 at US$35.62 a barrel, while January natural gas shed 2.5 cents to US$1.99 per mmBtu.

Elsewhere in commodities, the February gold contract rose $3.70 to US$1,075.70 an ounce, while battered copper prices rebounded four cents, with the March contract settling at US$2.12 a pound.



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