The Toronto stock market was negative at midday as weak Chinese data punished commodity prices after a strong runup last week.
The S&P/TSX composite index gave back 81.5 points to 12,422.12 as investors also took in a possible multibillion-dollar deal in the resource sector.
The Sunday Telegraph reported that Viterra Inc., Canada's largest publicly traded grain handler, has received an offer from Swiss commodities firm Glencore PLC worth $5.5-billion (Canadian). Glencore declined to provide any comment on the reports to The Canadian Press on Monday morning.
Viterra's shares jumped another 42 cents or 3.09 per cent to $14. The stock had surged 24 per cent Friday after Viterra said it had received expressions of interest.
The TSX Venture Exchange was down 9.63 points to 1,640.17.
The Canadian dollar dropped 0.25 of a cent to 100.67 cents US.
U.S. markets were mixed with the Dow Jones industrials up 22.29 points to 12,944.31.
The Nasdaq composite index was down 8.28 points to 2,980.06 and the S&P 500 index slipped 1.87 points to 1,369.
Commodity prices were lower Monday after China reported its biggest monthly trade deficit in at least a decade in February as imports rebounded after a Lunar New Year holiday slowdown in January. But the combined figures for both months showed growth in imports and exports decelerating markedly.
China, the world's second-biggest economy, has been a major prop for a global economy still recovering from the 2008 financial crisis.
“More than that, they've been the driver,” said Chris King, portfolio manager at Morgan, Meighen and Associates.
“They did a lot of support in infrastructure projects from 2008 to 2010. We need to remember, they use up 44 per cent of the world's copper.”
The base metals sector lost 2.63 per cent as demand worries pushed copper down two cents to US$3.84 a pound as reports of slowing Chinese growth often result in a short-term selloff in commodities. First Quantum Minerals (TSX:FM) eased 42 cents to $20.51 and Teck Resources (TSX:TCK.B) declined 96 cents to $35.57.
The April crude contract on the New York Mercantile Exchange was down $1.38 to US$106.02 a barrel and the TSX energy group was off 1.53 per cent. Suncor Energy (TSX:SU) was 59 cents lower to $33.65 and Canadian Natural Resources (TSX:CNQ) lost 99 cents to $34.52.
The gold sector declined 1.25 per cent as bullion lost $14.50 to US$1,697 an ounce. Goldcorp Inc. (TSX:ABX) faded 92 cents to $45.98 and Kinross Gold (TSX:K) was down 20 cents to $10.80.
Positive economic news from China and the U.S. had helped push prices for oil and metals higher the last three sessions.
Lower inflation raised hopes that the Chinese government will embark on further measures to stimulate the economy while traders also welcomed data showing the U.S. economy created more than 200,000 jobs for a third month in a row during February.
The declines on the TSX followed two, consecutive weekly declines despite improving economic conditions. Toronto and New York markets have rallied practically non-stop since early October, leaving the TSX up about 12 per cent since then, leaving markets vulnerable to a retracement.
“Whether we do a retracement or not, we certainly should look to a period of consolidation,” added King.
“Last year, we became too giddy on capital markets and they raced ahead with unbridled expectations of corporate earnings growth to the sky. As we enter the corporate warning season for earnings for the first quarter, I think people are being a little more tempered, which is good.”
Traders also looked ahead to a meeting of European finance ministers that is expected to pave the way for a second massive bailout for Greece that will prevent the debt-ridden country's imminent bankruptcy.
After last week's broadly successful bond swap with its private creditors, Greece will hope that it has met the conditions its partners in the eurozone attached before they finally approve the country's 130-billion-euro financial rescue.
European markets were mixed as London's FTSE 100 index dipped 0.13 per cent.
Frankfurt's DAX added 0.07 per cent and the Paris CAC 40 was down 0.09 per cent.
Earlier in Asia, Japan's Nikkei 225 Index fell 0.4 per cent, Hong Kong's Hang Seng added 0.2 per cent and South Korea's Kospi dropped 0.8 per cent.
Mainland Chinese shares were mixed, with the benchmark Shanghai Composite Index falling 0.2 per cent while the smaller Shenzhen Composite Index gained 0.4 per cent.
In other corporate news, Enbridge Inc. (TSX:ENB) says it faces a potential writedown of a “significant portion” of its $460-million investment in Enbridge Gas New Brunswick. Its shares were off 22 cents to $38.39.
Valeant Pharmaceuticals International, Inc. (TSX:VRX) has acquired a 19.9 per cent equity interest in a Brazilian research company focused on tissue regeneration. The Toronto-area drug company said Monday it paid less than $10 million for the stake in Pele Nova Biotecnologia SA. Valeant shares were down 55 cents to $54.54.