Loonie hovers above 70-cent U.S. mark, TSX slump continues

TORONTO -- The rapidly falling price of oil dragged down Toronto's stock market on Monday amid lingering worries for the country's economic outlook this year.

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The S&P/TSX composite index, which has lost nearly eight per cent of its value since Christmas Eve, was down again for its ninth consecutive day. In mid-afternoon trading, the Toronto Stock Exchange had lost 167.55 points, leaving it at 12,277.90.

The Canadian dollar, which has also been on a steep slide since the start of the year, fell 0.37 of a cent to 70.31 cents U.S. The last time the loonie settled below the 70-cent U.S. mark was on April 30, 2003, when it closed at 69.76 cents U.S.

The slump in China and its knock-on effects on commodity prices, especially oil, continued to drive down both the dollar and the TSX.

"We're seeing a continuation of the weakness that started the year," said Craig Fehr, Canadian market strategist at Edward Jones in St. Louis.

"The key drivers are pretty much the same. We're seeing further concerns about growth in China. ... That's leading to further declines in oil prices, and that obviously is having an impact on the domestic market as well as global markets as a whole."

Chinese markets endured big drops last week, roiling markets worldwide, before rebounding Friday. But the Shanghai composite, China's main index, plunged again Monday, falling 6.3 per cent.

There was more grim news Monday from the Bank of Canada, which released a survey that concluded that the hiring and investment intentions of companies have dropped to their lowest levels since 2009. The central bank said the fallout from falling commodity prices was extending beyond resource-regions.

The February contract for benchmark crude oil fell $1.71 to US$31.45 a barrel, while February natural gas lost seven cents to US$2.40 per mmBtu.

February gold fell $3.60 to US$1,094.30 an ounce, while March copper lost five cents to US$1.97 a pound, with both base and precious metals miners among the biggest losers on the TSX.

In New York, the major indexes were moderately negative after coming off their worst start to a year ever.

The Dow Jones was down 15.41 points at 16,331.04, while the S&P500 declined 7.18 points to 1,914.85 and the Nasdaq was 29.43 points lower at 4,614.20.



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