North American markets plunge amid another oil price drop

TORONTO -- North American markets were seriously in the red at mid-afternoon Tuesday as another big downturn in the price of oil roiled markets worldwide.

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The Toronto Stock Exchange's S&P/TSX index was down 250.46 points or almost two per cent to 12,423.91, adding to a 147-point drop Monday that started the month's trading.

New York indexes were also in full retreat, with the Dow Jones industrial average down 301.05 points or 1.8 per cent at 16,148.13, while the S&P 500 fell 36.70 points or 1.9 per cent to 1,902.68 and the Nasdaq lost 100.88 points or almost 2.2 per cent to 4,519.49.

Investor concern remained on oil prices, which plunged for a second consecutive session amid fears for the world economy in the wake of disappointing manufacturing reports out of the U.S. and China on Monday.

On commodity markets, the March contract for benchmark U.S. oil fell $1.27 to US$29.95 a barrel after dropping $2 on Monday, and the heavily weighted energy sector was down 3.38 per cent on the TSX.

The oil-sensitive loonie was off 0.52 of a U.S. cent at 71.27 cents US.

"Hope is extinguished for now, as the now two-day fall in crude has regained the market's focus," John Briggs, head of Americas fixed income strategy at RBS, wrote in a note to investors.

Elsewhere in commodities, March natural gas fell 13 cents to US$2.02 per mmBtu after plummeting almost 15 cents Monday, while April gold edged 20 cents higher to US$1,128.20 an ounce and copper gave back a penny to US$2.04 a pound.

In Europe, Germany's DAX finished 1.8 per cent lower, while France's CAC-40 fell 2.5 per cent and Britain's FTSE 100 lost 2.7 per cent.

In Asia, Tokyo's Nikkei 225 earlier closed 0.6 per cent lower, South Korea's Kospi index fell one per cent and Hong Kong's Hang Seng was off 0.8 per cent. China's man index, the Shanghai composite, was up 2.26 per cent.

With files from The Associated Press



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