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File photo of traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange. (LUCAS JACKSON/REUTERS)
File photo of traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange. (LUCAS JACKSON/REUTERS)

At midday: Stock sell-off continues amid relatively strong U.S. jobs data Add to ...

North American stock markets extended Thursday’s sell off, despite a relatively strong U.S. employment report.

The S&P/TSX composite index tumbled 177.50 points to 15,153.21 as the U.S. Labor Department said the American economy added 209,000 jobs last month, while the unemployment rate ticked up 0.1 of a point to 6.2 per cent.

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Generally, economists had looked for the economy to add 225,000 jobs with unemployment rate holding steady.

The Canadian dollar edged up 0.04 of a cent to 91.75 cents (U.S.).

New York’s Dow Jones industrials fell 82.61 points to 16,480.69, the Nasdaq gave back 32.00 points to 4,337.78 while the S&P 500 index lost 8.14 points to 1,922.53.

Stock markets tumbled Thursday in their biggest one-day slide since early February, but analysts were hard-pressed to identify a single reason for the drop. The TSX fell 194 points while the Dow industrials plunged 317 points, wiping out all gains year-to-date.

There were scattered earnings disappointments, but analysts have been generally pleased with the second-quarter earnings over the last couple of weeks.

In the background are worries that strong U.S. economic growth could result in the Federal Reserve hiking rates earlier than expected.

But there are also worries about the ripple effects from Argentina again defaulting on debt and tensions between the West and Russia over that country’s support of Ukrainian rebels blamed for shooting down an airliner last month.

On top of it all, cracks in stock markets are appearing at a time when indexes are close to all time highs and the bull market has run practically non-stop for over five years.

“So, my view is that the market was looking for any excuse to sell, really,” said John Stephenson, president and CEO at Stephenson and Co. Capital Management.

“You have tremendous amounts of cash sitting on the sidelines, at least in ”the retail population, and people are just bloody well nervous that they’re going to lose their shirt, especially when they look at how far the market has come,“ Stephenson said.

The energy sector led decliners, down 1.75 per cent as September crude lost 92 cents to $97.26 (U.S.).

The financial sector was a major source of weakness, down 1.2 per cent after Portugal’s second-biggest lender posted a record $4.68-billion loss and said it needed an increase in capital.

The base metals sector declined 1.1 per cent with September copper down one cent to $3.23 a pound.

The TSX found support from a 0.75 per cent rise in the gold sector as December bullion gained $14 to $1,296.80 an ounce.

In earnings news Friday, pipeline company Enbridge reported adjusted earnings rose to $328-million (Canadian) or 40 cents per share from $306-million, or 38 Canadian cents, a year earlier, a penny better than expected. Its shares were up 34 cents to $53.79.

Regional telecom company Bell Aliant reported a second-quarter profit of $72-million, or 32 cents per share, compared with $66-million, or 29 cents per share, a year ago. Revenues were down at $683-million from $692-million year-over-year. BCE Inc., which already owns 44 per cent of Bell Aliant, recently announced it’s going to take full ownership of the company through a $3.95-billion deal. Bell Aliant shares gained 22 cents to $31.12.

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