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Trader Peter Tuchman works on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange Friday, Jan. 24, 2014. (Jason DeCrow/AP Photo)
Trader Peter Tuchman works on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange Friday, Jan. 24, 2014. (Jason DeCrow/AP Photo)

At midday: TSX sharply lower amid emerging market worries Add to ...

The Toronto stock market plunged about 200 points late morning Friday as emerging market worries persuaded investors to avoid riskier assets like equities and commodities.

The S&P/TSX composite index dropped 198.26 points to 13,734.71.

The Canadian dollar was ahead 0.13 of a cent to 90.23 cents US as Statistics Canada said the annual inflation rate rose to 1.2 per cent in December, compared with 0.9 per cent in November, largely because of higher gasoline prices.

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The Dow Jones industrials fell 185.67 points to 16,011.68 after plunging 176 points on Thursday, the Nasdaq was 65.43 points lower to 4,153.45 while the S&P 500 index was down 24.79 points to 1,803.67.

Investors have been worried about sharp drops in the values of currencies in several emerging markets including Turkey, Russia, South Africa and Argentina.

These drops were sparked by moves by the U.S. Federal Reserve to cut back on its massive bond purchases, a key stimulus measure that fuelled a rally on stock markets last year and also kept long-term rates low. But U.S. bond yields have risen as the Fed moves to taper its purchases.

“If the expectation is in the U.S. that yields start going up, I think the investors who are now overseas in the Turkish, Argentinian, South African or Venezuelan bond markets don’t see the need to stay there anymore – so they repatriate their money,” said John Tsagarelis, portfolio manager at Manulife Asset Management.

“So there’s a pretty quick outflow and you’re seeing that through the transmission mechanisms of the currencies first and then obviously the bond market and then things follow from there.”

The rout in emerging-market assets began a day earlier following signs that manufacturing was contracting in China, a major driver of global economic growth.

Also weighing on markets has been a slew of fourth-quarter earnings reports out this week that have disappointed on revenue growth.

“Many companies last year were coming in line or just coming in slightly below revenue expectations and then beating on EPS because of cost cutting and issues related to maintaining margins and so forth,” added Tsagarelis.

“But I think if you don’t have topline growth, cost reductions can only go so far.”

Investors are wary of a U.S. market that hasn’t experienced a serious correction in almost 18 months while the S&P 500 soared about 30 per cent last year.

Much of last year’s rally was made possible by Fed stimulus in the form of massive bond buying. But the central bank announced last month it was cutting those purchases by US$10-billion a month to $75-billion.

The Fed holds its next interest rate meeting next week and traders will be anxious to see if the Fed reduces its asset purchases further.

In earnings news Friday, Procter & Gamble said its second-quarter net income fell 16 per cent to US$3.43-billion, or $1.18 per share as the world’s largest consumer products maker faced tough comparisons from a year ago, the stronger dollar and flat sales globally. But its adjusted earnings still beat expectations. Revenue was flat at $22.28-billion, short of the $22.34-billion in revenue analysts expected but its shares headed up 3.75 per cent to $81.19.

The mining sector led decliners, down 3.4 per cent while March copper was down a cent at US$3.28 a pound following a five-cent retreat Thursday on the China manufacturing data. Teck Resources lost 88 cents to C$26.27 and HudBay Minerals (TSX:HBM) lost 53 cents to $8.77.

The energy sector lost 1.5 per cent with the March crude oil contract down 50 cents to US$96.82 a barrel. Canadian Natural Resources (TSX:CNQ) gave back 75 cents to C$35.43 and Suncor Energy (TSX:SU) shed 51 cents to $37.29.

Financials also weighed, also down 1.5 per cent with Manulife Financial (TSX:MFC) down 83 cents to $20.97 and Royal Bank (TSX:RY) gave back $1 to $70.42.

The February gold bullion contract rose $4 to US$1,266.30 an ounce as the gold sector lost early momentum and turned down 1.3 per cent. Barrick Gold (TSX:ABX) lost 41 cents to $21.02 and Centerra Gold (TSX:CG) faded nine cents to C$4.20.

The tech sector was the main advancer and shares in business software company Open Text Corp. (TSX:OTC) ran ahead $12.59 or 12.57 per cent to $112.78 as it posted a quarterly profit of US$53.5-million or 90 cents a share, down from $61.1-million a year ago. Revenue increased to US$363.5-million from $352.2-million. Open Text also said that it will split its stock two-for-one next month.

European markets fell with London’s FTSE 100 index down 1.6 per cent while Frankfurt’s DAX and the Paris CAC 40 dropped 2.3 per cent.

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