North American markets turn lower as oil prices falter

TORONTO -- North American equity markets turned lower Monday, unable to sustain last week's rally as oil prices were again faltering in the face of a global supply glut.

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At mid-afternoon, the Toronto Stock Exchange's S&P/TSX index was down 188.77 points at 12,200.81 after Canada's main index added almost 550 points on the final two days of trading last week.

The commodity-sensitive Canadian dollar also dropped, losing 0.42 of a U.S. cent to 70.25 cents US and breaking a three-day string of gains.

On commodity markets, the March contract for benchmark North American crude was down $1.85 at US$30.34 a barrel, and the capped energy sector was the leading decliner on the TSX, down 4.07 per cent.

Elsewhere in commodities, March natural gas was up two cents at US$2.16 per mmBtu, while February gold was up $9.40 US$1,105.70 a troy ounce and March copper gave back a penny to US$1.99 a pound.

New York markets were also in the red with the Dow Jones industrial average was down 77.80 points at 16,015.71, while the broader S&P 500 fell 13.46 points to 1,893.44 and the Nasdaq lost 28.15 points to 4,563.03.

In corporate news, Tyco International and Johnson Controls announced they will join forces in a $3.9-billion deal. Tyco makes fire suppression systems and Johnson Controls makes ventilation systems, auto seating and car batteries. Based on current values, the combined company will have a value of about $36 billion.

Meanwhile, a survey by the U.S. National Association of Business Economists says business economists are more pessimistic about profits and sales than they were last fall and expect slower economic growth.

However, most of the survey participants said their companies planned to raise wages in the first quarter. That's the largest proportion in more than a year.

Overseas, markets in Europe finished slightly lower, with Germany's DAX down 0.3 per cent, France's CAC 40 off 0.6 per cent and Britain's FTSE 100 down 0.4 per cent.

In Asia, Japan's Nikkei 225 rose 0.9 per cent and Hong Kong's Hang Seng jumped 1.4 per cent.



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