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A selection of the 27 gold bars recovered from the Tortugas shipwreck, in the Straits of Florida, is pictured in this undated handout photo courtesy of Odyssey Marine Exploration. Its 400-year-old treasure found off the Florida coast in the Gulf of Mexico has now been recovered. The galleon Buen Jesus y Nuestra Senora del Rosario, of the Tierra Firme treasure fleet, was sailing back to Spain after collecting colonial treasures back in 1622. It was struck down by a fierce hurricane off the southwest tip of Florida, about 400 miles from the Florida Keys.Odyssey Marine Exploration/Reuters

Canada's benchmark index was down sharply in midday trading on Friday after the price of gold slumped more than $50 (U.S.) an ounce, pummelling commodity producers.

The S&P/TSX composite index was down 179 points or 1.4 per cent, to 12,303. U.S. indexes also fell. The S&P 500 was down 9 points or 0.5 per cent, to 1585. The blue-chip Dow Jones industrial average was down 30 points or 0.2 per cent, to 14,835.

Gold was recently trading close to $1,505 an ounce, down $57 – a two-year low and down more than 20 per cent from its record high in 2011, conforming to the popular definition of a bear market.

The materials sector within the TSX was the biggest laggard, falling 4.2 per cent. More specifically, gold producers were hard hit: Barrick Gold Corp. fell 5.6 per cent and Goldcorp Inc. fell 4 per cent.

Energy stocks were also hit, falling 1.8 per cent after the price of crude oil slid to $90.69 a barrel, down $2.82. Financials fell 0.6 per cent.

Within the S&P 500, commodity producers were also the biggest laggards. Energy stocks fell 1.5 per cent and materials fell 1.8 per cent. Elsewhere, technology stocks fell 1 per cent and financials fell 0.8 per cent.

JPMorgan Chase & Co. fell 0.1 per cent, even though the financial firm reported a 33 per cent gain in its first quarter earnings. Earnings rose to $6.5-billion or $1.59 a share, beating analysts' estimates.

The U.S. economic backdrop to Friday's market turbulence wasn't upbeat. U.S. retail sales fell 0.4 per cent in March, the biggest decline in nine months and a sharp reversal from the 1 per cent gain in February.

As well, the Reuters/University of Michigan consumer confidence index fell to 72.3 in April, dow from 78.6.

Stocks were down in Europe. The U.K.'s FTSE 100 fell 0.5 per cent and Germany's DAX index fell 1.6 per cent.