TSX pulls back slightly from steep decline

The Toronto Stock Exchange (TSX)'s name is shown on the facade of its former home on Bay Street in Toronto. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young

TORONTO - The Toronto stock market was deep into losses on Monday afternoon, but improved from a four-month low earlier in the day, as worries about the European economy left their mark across the globe.

The S&P/TSX composite index fell 153.57 points to 11,993.71, a decline of about 1.3 per cent from Friday's close, with all major sectors weaker. Earlier in the session the TSX had fallen as much as 1.9 per cent, marking its biggest drop since December.

The TSX Venture Exchange slid 30.23 to 1,367.72.

Lower oil and copper prices contributed to weakening the Canadian dollar, which was ahead 0.07 of a cent to 100.82 cents US.

The downward shift came as the euro weakened and the French stock market tumbled over questions about France's political future. Socialist Francois Hollande was the leader in first-round voting in the French presidential election, positioning him to oust President Nicolas Sarkozy in a run-off vote.

While polls correctly predicted Hollande would come out ahead of conservative Sarkozy in Sunday's first round, an unexpectedly strong showing by far-right candidate Marine Le Pen added another element of uncertainty.

Also, key surveys Monday showed a decline in economic activity in both the eurozone and China, hurting stocks globally.

On Wall Street, the Dow Jones industrial average fell 135 points to 12,894, the Nasdaq was down 49 points at 2,951 and the S&P 500 index dropped 16 points to 1,362.

The June crude contract on the New York Mercantile Exchange fell 77 cents to settle at US$103.01 a barrel.

Bullion prices ended the session down 0.6 per cent with the June contract off $10.20 to US$1,632.60 an ounce.

Copper prices moved seven cents lower to US$3.63 a pound.

Major weights on the TSX included Barrick Gold (TSX:ABX), which fell 72 cents to C$39.24, helping to pull the gold sector 2.6 per cent lower.

Royal Bank (TSX:RY) dropped 80 cents to $56.35 with the financials sector down 1.2 per cent.

In corporate news, information services company Thomson Reuters (TSX:TRI) is selling its Healthcare business for US$1.25 billion in cash to an affiliate of private equity firm Veritas Capital. The company's shares fell 39 cents to $28.26.

Yukon-Nevada Gold Corp. (TSX:YNG) has increased the reserve estimate for its Jerritt Canyon gold mine complex in Nevada by 48 per cent. The Vancouver-based company said the new estimate is 1.06 million ounces of proven and probable reserves as of Dec. 31, up from 717,000 ounces at the beginning of 2011. Shares in the company fell a penny to 32 cents.

On an otherwise light day for North American economic news,Statistics Canada said wholesale sales rose 1.6 per cent in February to $48.5 billion, following a 1.1 per cent decline in January.

Most subsectors reported higher sales in February, with four of them accounting for about 90 per cent of overall growth.

The European Union statistics office released data that suggests it may be a long time before countries there bring deficits and debt under control, or at least below EU-stipulated limits of a deficit of three per cent and debt of 60 per cent of gross domestic product.

At a time of harsh austerity measures in Europe, overall debt rose to 87.2 per cent of GDP — the highest level since the euro was created in 1999.