TSX begins Friday with plunge at opening bell

TORONTO -- Canada's biggest stock market took a rapid descent Friday, dropping nearly three per cent in the first minutes of trading.

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The Toronto Stock Exchange's S&P/TSX index was down 341.68 points -- 2.8 per cent -- shortly after the opening bell at 9:30 a.m. ET, joining declines in Asia, Europe and the United States.

The Canadian dollar fell below 69 cents U.S. early Friday for the first time since 2003 as crude oil futures dropped below US$30 a barrel.

The loonie later regained ground, trading at 69.21 cents U.S., but that was still down 0.42 of a U.S. cent below Thursday's closing price.

On commodity markets, February crude oil futures traded at US$29.69 a barrel at about 9:30 a.m. ET and gold futures were up $21.30 at US$1.094.80.

In New York, the Dow Jones average of 30 stocks was down 1.9 per cent or 310.5 points at 16,068.55, while the S&P 500 index declined 1.7 per cent or 32.14 points to 1,889.70 and the Nasdaq dropped 3.2 per cent or 134.5 points to 4,138.48.



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