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The close: Dow, TSX fall Add to ...

Commodity producers continued to weigh on North American equity indexes on Wednesday after investors fled from gold, crude oil and other commodities.

The Dow Jones industrial average closed at 12,723.58, down 83.93 points or 0.7 per cent. The broader S&P 500 closed at 1347.32, down 9.30 points or 0.7 per cent. In Canada, the commodity-heavy S&P/TSX composite index closed at 13,611.32, down 81.05 points or 0.6 per cent.

The Canadian index had been down as much as 190 points in midday trading, before a modest rebound helped limit the damage. Even so, the loss brings the losing streak to three consecutive days, during which the index has fallen a total of 2.4 per cent. Materials have been the worst hit during this period, falling 4.7 per cent, while energy stocks have fallen 3.7 per cent.

You can blame much of the setback on commodities themselves, with gold and silver tumbling from record highs amid speculation that one of gold's biggest supporters - financier George Soros - had begun selling his holdings. Gold fell to $1,515.30 (U.S.) an ounce, down $25.10. Silver fell 5.1 per cent, closing below $40 a ounce after approaching the $50-mark just last week.

But the commodities rout extended beyond precious metals, ensnaring everything from natural gas to wheat to copper to cotton. Crude oil fell to $109.24 a barrel, down $1.81.

Among U.S. stocks, Caterpillar Inc. fell 2.2 per cent and Chevron Corp. fell 1.4 per cent. Among Canadian energy stocks, Talisman Energy Inc. slid 5.9 per cent, although the decline was exacerbated by disappointing quarterly results. Suncor Energy Inc. rose 0.6 per cent after falling sharply on Tuesday, but Canadian Natural Resources Ltd. fell 2 per cent and Canadian Oil Sands Ltd. fell 0.8 per cent.

Among mining stocks, gold producers actually fared okay. Barrick Gold Corp. fell 0.4 per cent, but Goldcorp Inc. rose 0.2 per cent and Kinross Gold Corp. rose 4.9 per cent.

In other moves, U.S. blue chip technology stocks performed well, with Hewlett-Packard Co. up 1.5 per cent and Intel Corp. up 1.2 per cent. As well, Pfizer Inc. rose 1 per cent after falling sharply on Tuesday.

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