North American stocks fell at the start of trading on Thursday morning, weighed down by financial stocks in the United States and commodity producers in Canada.
The Dow Jones industrial average fell 99 points, or 1.2 per cent, to 8,276. Citigroup Inc. fell 6.9 per cent and Bank of America Corp. fell 5.6 per cent - just one day after investors sent stocks in this sector on a double-digit rally. Meanwhile, Ford Motor Co., which is not a member of the Dow, fell 3.9 per cent after reporting a $5.9-billion (U.S.) loss in the fourth quarter that has investors wondering if the auto maker can continue without government assistance.
However, investors did renew their interest in typical economically defensive stocks whose earnings tend to be stable during rough times. Procter & Gamble, Coca-Cola, Wal-Mart Stores, Merck & Co. and Johnson & Johnson all rose modestly in early trading.
In Canada, the S&P/TSX composite index fell 108 points, or 1.2 per cent, to 8,798. The banks declined slightly, with Royal Bank of Canada down 0.3 per cent and Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce down 0.2 per cent.
Energy stocks bore the brunt of the selloff, with oil hovering only slightly above $40 a barrel. Suncor Energy Inc. fell 2.9 per cent and Canadian Natural Resources Ltd. fell 2.6 per cent.