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The close: TSX drops amid global equities selloff

Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) Feb. 8.

Brendan McDermid/Reuters

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Canadian stocks joined a selloff in global equities, as persistent concerns about global economic growth prompted declines in shares with some of the highest valuations.

The Standard & Poor's/TSX Composite Index slumped 1.8 per cent to 12,535.4 in Toronto, as nine of the 10 main industries tumbled. The decline pushed the index's loss for the year to 3.6 per cent, giving it the second-best performance among developed-nation markets.

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A rout in technology stocks deepened Monday as Canadian companies in the industry fell almost 3 per cent to the lowest since August. Sierra Wireless Inc. and BlackBerry Ltd. fell at least 4.1 per cent to pace losses. American tech shares plunged, with the Nasdaq Composite Index hitting the lowest level in more than 15 months, as investors sold some stocks with among the highest valuations.

The Canadian benchmark index trades for 19.3 times the reported earnings of its members, 14 per cent higher than the S&P 500. While the Nasdaq index has a price-to-earnings ratio higher than 25, Canada's technology index trades at 27.3 times.

The nation's raw-materials producers were the only gainers Monday, as an index of gold stocks surged 5 per cent after the price of bullion futures rallied toward $1,200 an ounce. Yamana Gold Inc. rose 11 per cent, the largest gain since December. OceanaGold Corp. also dvanced 11 per cent, toward a level last seen in December 2014.

Signs of distress in financial markets accumulated amid deepening concern over the health of the global economy, with U.S. stocks sliding to a 22-month low as the cost of protecting against default by junk-rated companies soared to the highest level since 2012.

Mining and banking stocks drove the Standard & Poor's 500 Index to its lowest close since April 2014, even as energy producers erased losses. Investors sought out the safest assets, sending yields on 10-year Treasuries to the lowest level in a year, and rates on Germany's 10-year bunds to their lowest point since April. Meanwhile, yields on bonds of Europe's most- indebted countries rose. Oil slid below $30 a barrel amid ongoing glut concerns, while gold advanced for a seventh day, its longest advance since March.

"We're still seeing selling pressure from the tech valuation resetting last week, as well as the drop in oil," said Matt Maley, an equity strategist at Miller Tabak & Co LLC in New York. "But it's not just a problem with technology and some of the high-flyers that have rolled over in recent days, but also the recent stresses in the credit markets."

U.S. stocks sank last week as concern about everything from China to oil and interest rates spurred strategists to lower their year-end projections for equities. In Europe, data today showed the Sentix investor confidence index dropped to the lowest level in more than a year in February, while concerns about Deutsche Bank AG's ability to pay bond coupons increased. Crude failed to hold onto gains after Saudi Arabia held talks Sunday with Venezuela, which is trying to drum up support for a coordinated oil-output cut to buttress prices. Most Asian markets were closed for the Lunar New Year holidays.

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The S&P 500 fell 1.4 per cent in New York. The Nasdaq 100 Index slid for a fifth day, closing at its lowest level since October 2014. The Nasdaq Composite Index has tumbled more than 19 per cent from a July record, leaving it on the precipice of a bear market.

Bank shares contributed among the biggest losses Monday, with Bank of America Corp. and Citigroup Inc. tumbled more than 6 per cent, while Wells Fargo & Co. and JPMorgan Chase & Co. sank by at least 3 per cent. Energy stocks rose 0.1 per cent.

The S&P 500 declined last week for the first time in three, with a jobs-day tumble on Friday turning into a full-blown sell-off. A rout in high-valued software and Internet companies continued Monday with Facebook Inc. falling 4.2 per cent after its steepest retreat in more than a year.

While the S&P 500's valuation of 15.3 times forecast earnings is in line with the average of the past five years, the measure has plunged 12 percent since the start of the year. The gauge remains more expensive than developed markets in Europe, where the Stoxx Europe 600 Index trades for 13.8 times estimated earnings.

The Stoxx 600 slid for a sixth day, declining 3.5 per cent to the lowest since 2014. Equity benchmarks in Germany, France and Spain dropped at least 3.2 per cent. Greece's ASE Index sank 7.9 per cent to the lowest since 1990 as banks tumbled.

Global oil markets fell 3 per cent to settle down for a third straight day on Monday on worries that U.S. crude stockpiles had reached new record highs, while a Saudi-Venezuela meeting to boost prices showed little progress.

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Oil was also hurt by tumbling U.S. equity markets amid persistent fears about the global economic slowdown.

U.S. commercial crude oil inventories and gasoline stocks, already brimming at record high levels, were forecast to have risen last week even as stockpiles of distillates likely fell, a preliminary Reuters survey showed.

The survey came after Sunday's meeting between Saudi Arabia's oil minister, Ali al-Naimi, and his Venezuelan counterpart produced no tangible signs that OPEC and non-OPEC suppliers were ready to meet to discuss the price slump in oil.

U.S. crude settled below $30 a barrel, finishing down $1.20 at $29.69. Global crude benchmark Brent settled down $1.18 at $33.88.

"Everyone's fearing new builds in crude," said Donald Morton, energy trader with Fairfield, Connecticut-based Herbert J. Sims & Co.

U.S. crude stocks likely rose by 3.9 million barrels in the week ended Feb. 5, said the Reuters survey, taken ahead of weekly inventory reports from industry group American Petroleum Institute and the U.S. Department of Energy's Energy Information Administration.

In the previous week to Jan. 29, domestic crude inventories hit record highs of nearly 503 million barrels

U.S. stock markets experienced a broad sell-off that drove the financial, technology, consumer and materials indexes down as much as 3 per cent.

"The big elephant in the room today was the global equity markets selling off on credit fears spiking and long-term rates tanking to new lows on the year," said Chris Jarvis, analyst at Caprock Risk Management in Frederick, Md.

The Saudi-Venezuela meeting was seen as "make or break" for a deal to boost oil prices that have slumped 70 percent since mid-2014 and are now languishing near 2003 levels.

Venezuela's oil minister, Eulogio Del Pino, on a tour of oil producers to lobby for action to prop up prices, said his meeting with Naimi was "productive."

"But does 'productive' mean less production? The market thinks not, at least right now," said Phil Flynn, an analyst at Price Futures Group in Chicago.

Dominick Chirichella, senior partner at the Energy Management Institute in New York, said the possibility of a deal to cut production was "quickly fading into the sunset" and traders and investors were "once again left to focus on the reality of the oversupplied global market."

With files from Reuters

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