The Toronto stock market was down almost 200 points near midday Monday as commodity prices weakened and uncertainty in the European economy left their mark across the globe.
The S&P/TSX composite index fell 182.26 points to 11,965.02, easing off a deeper decline earlier in the morning. The TSX Venture Exchange slid 29.72 to 1,368.23.
Lower oil and copper prices contributed to weakening the Canadian dollar, which was off 0.21 of a cent to 100.54 cents (U.S.).
The downward shift came as the euro weakened and the French stock market tumbled over questions about France's political future. Socialist Francois Hollande was the leader in first-round voting in the French presidential election, positioning him to oust President Nicolas Sarkozy in a run-off vote.
While polls correctly predicted Hollande would come out ahead of conservative Sarkozy in Sunday's first round, an unexpectedly strong showing by far-right candidate Marine Le Pen added another element of uncertainty.
Also, key surveys Monday showed a decline in economic activity in both the euro zone and China, hurting stocks globally.
On Wall Street, the Dow Jones industrial average fell 135 points to 12,894, the Nasdaq was down 49 points at 2,951 and the S&P 500 index dropped 16 points to 1,362.
The June crude contract on the New York Mercantile Exchange fell $1.63 to $102.25 (U.S.) a barrel.
Bullion prices declined $10 to $1,632.80 (U.S.) an ounce.
Copper prices moved eight cents lower to $3.62 (U.S.) a pound.
Major weights on the TSX included Barrick Gold (TSX:ABX) which fell 85 cents to $39.11 (CAN), helping to pull the gold sector 2.59 per cent lower.
Royal Bank (TSX:RY) dropped 86 cents to $56.29 with the financials sector down 1.42 per cent.
In corporate news, information services company Thomson Reuters (TSX:TRI) is selling its health-care business for $1.25-billion (U.S.) in cash to an affiliate of private equity firm Veritas Capital. The company's shares fell 49 cents to $28.16.
Yukon-Nevada Gold Corp. (TSX:YNG) has increased the reserve estimate for its Jerritt Canyon gold mine complex in Nevada by 48 per cent. The Vancouver-based company said the new estimate is 1.06 million ounces of proven and probable reserves as of Dec. 31, up from 717,000 ounces at the beginning of 2011. Shares of the company fell half a cent to 32.5 cents.
The European Union statistics office released data that suggests it may be a long time before countries there bring deficits and debt under control, or at least below EU-stipulated limits of a deficit of three per cent and debt of 60 per cent of gross domestic product.
At a time of harsh austerity measures in Europe, overall debt rose to 87.2 per cent of GDP — the highest level since the euro was created in 1999.
London's FTSE 100 index fell 2.21 per cent, Frankfurt's DAX lost 3.61 per cent and the Paris CAC 40 fell 2.93 per cent.
In Asia, Tokyo's Nikkei 225 dropped 0.2 per cent, Hong Kong's Hang Seng dropped 1.84 per cent and Seoul's Kospi dropped 0.1 per cent.