The S&P/TSX composite index was off early lows, down 226.97 points or two per cent to 11,024.87 after plunging as much as 400 points as the possibility of a Greek debt default continued to rattle investors. The index had hit its lowest level since last summer on Monday with a 375-point slide.
The junior TSX Venture Exchange fell 64.51 points to 1,324.88.
Investors have been concerned over the last couple of months about the slowing pace of economic revival, and the possibility that Greece might not be able to make key debt payments — hamstringing the broader European economy — raises the spectre that industrial demand for raw materials will fall.
“Clearly, it’s taking quite a toll on the markets,” said Kate Warne, Canadian markets specialist at Edward Jones in St. Louis.
“No one is sure that policy-makers will move fast enough or do what needs to be done to allow Greece to restructure payments — which is another nice word for saying default.”
Those fears have translated into deep price slides for oil and metals and pushed the resource-heavy TSX into bear market territory, generally defined by a drop of at least 20 per cent from recent highs.
Finance Minister Jim Flaherty on Tuesday repeated his call for European leaders “to get ahead of the markets to overwhelm the problem” with a larger emergency fund.
“As I have said to my colleagues in Europe, (what is needed is) one, a commitment of political will; two, decisiveness; and three, clarity. Those are the three things European leaders need to do in order to restore confidence. It is time for the eurozone countries to deal with that situation.”
The loonie has also been a casualty of economic worries, despite the still-strong fundamentals of the Canadian economy, reflecting the steep drop in commodity prices and a flight to the perceived safe haven status of U.S. Treasury bonds. The loonie fell 1.3 cents to 94.1 cents US. It earlier fell as low as 94.02 cents US, its lowest level since August 2010.
U.S. markets were mainly lower with the Dow Jones industrial index down 97.02 points to 10,558.28 after the blue-chip barometer fell 258 points on Monday. The Nasdaq composite index gained 22.07 points to 2,357.9 while the S&P 500 index fell back 3.33 points to 1,095.9.
Markets tumbled Monday after Greece said it wouldn’t be able to reduce its budget deficits as much as it had agreed to as part of a deal to receive more emergency loans. Fears have been growing that Greece, despite billions of euros in rescue loans, will eventually have to default on its massive debts.
Officials indicated early Tuesday that Greece will get a loan instalment it needs to keep paying its bills, though not as soon as Greece says it needs it.
Markets were unimpressed with a comment from the Greek finance minister that the country has enough money to pay pensions, salaries and bondholders through mid-November. Greece had previously said it would start running out of money in mid-October if it didn’t get the next C8 billion instalment of a C110 billion rescue package.
European markets all tumbled with London’s FTSE 100 index falling 2.41 per cent, Frankfurt’s DAX lost 2.77 per cent while the Paris CAC 40 dropped 2.36 per cent.
The stronger U.S. dollar and the prospect of slower economic growth continued to drive commodities lower.
A stronger greenback usually helps depress prices for oil and metals, which are denominated in U.S. dollars, as it makes commodities more expensive for holders of other currencies.
Negative outlooks on commodities and big resource companies also contributed to losses on the TSX.
Goldman Sachs, regarded as one of the more bullish on commodities, lowered its Brent crude oil price outlook for 2012 from US$130 to $120 per barrel and cut its copper price forecast by almost 15 per cent, from US$10,790 to $9,200 a tonne.
And Credit Suisse cut its target prices for the leading mining companies.
The TSX energy sector fell 2.64 per cent as the November crude contract on the New York Mercantile Exchange down 58 cents to US$77.03 a barrel after falling Monday to its lowest close since Sept. 28, 2010. Suncor Energy (TSX:SU) lost 42 cents to $24.86 and Canadian Natural Resources (TSX:CNQ) lost $1.32 to $27.73.
The gold sector lost 3.1 per cent as gold prices headed lower with the December bullion contract on the Nymex down $24.400 to US$1,633.30 an ounce. Barrick Gold (TSX:ABX) faded $1.39 to C$47.23 and Goldcorp Inc. (TSX:G) gave back $1.99 to $45.78.
Financial stocks also contributed to the selloff as traders try to gauge the effect a Greek default would have on the global banking system. The group lost 2.5 per cent with TD Bank (TSX:TD) down $1.87 to C$69.80 and Royal Bank (TSX:RY) off $1.32 to $45.46.
The base metals sector turned positive late morning, up 1.53 per cent as copper prices came back from early lows and the December contract was unchanged at US$3.14 a pound after going as low as US$3.04. Copper is widely viewed as a barometer for the health of the overall global economy since it is used in the manufacturing of electronics, homes and infrastructure. The base metals sector fell 3.25 per cent as Teck Resources (TSX:TCK.B) gained 88 cents to $29.57 and First Quantum Minerals (TSX:FM) rose 39 cents to $13.56.
In Asia, Japan’s Nikkei 225 fell 1.1 per cent, South Korea’s Kospi plunged 3.6 per cent, Hong Kong’s Hang Seng sank 3.4 per cent while Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 shed 0.6 per cent. Markets in mainland China were closed for a holiday.
This is also happening to the supposed most powerful nation on earth.
The chairman of the U.S. Federal Reserve, Ben Bernanke, warned Tuesday the American economic recovery “is close to faltering” and the central bank is ready to do more to support growth.
His comments came less than two weeks after the Fed unveiled its third economic stimulus effort, aimed at lowering long-term interest rates, since the start of the financial crisis, and two months after it promised to keep interest rates low until 2013.
North American markets came off their morning lows after Bernanke suggested additional stimulus measures would be possible in the coming months.
Bernanke said the recession was deeper than the Fed first thought and recovery has been slower than anticipated.
“We need to make sure that the recovery continues and doesn’t drop back and that the unemployment rate continues to fall downward,” Bernanke said.
Poor job growth is the biggest reason for depressed consumer confidence, Bernanke told the Joint Economic Committee of Congress.
Bernanke warned against deep spending cuts, saying “we need to make sure that the recovery continues and doesn’t drop back and that the unemployment rate continues to fall downward.”
But he also said lawmakers face a delicate challenge, in that they must also eventually cut spending more deeply than the $1.5 trillion in deficit cuts being sought by a special panel.
We try to control so much of our world, when in reality so much of it is out of our control. Fortunately there is someone in control of all of this mess that we humans have gotten ourselves into in the western world. All we have to worry about is falling stocks when people in third world countries have to figure out who gets to eat on certain days.
Believe it or not, God is in control of everything to do with our world. Don’t believe me? Is it raining where you are? Can you make it stop? No, but it does stop eventually doesn’t it? God uses the rain to help plants and trees to grow. These plants in turn provide humans and animals with oxygen and food to help us continue to live productive and fruitful lives.
In the same way that rain can be seen as a negative thing, this sort of economic recession could be used by God himself as a tool to wake the western world from its selfishness and make us think of the situations people in less fortunate countries must face. So that we in turn can help them make their own lives better as well as our own. If it takes a taste of their world here in the west for us to get it, then perhaps that’s what needs to happen.
Slumps don’t last forever. God is in control.
Just a thought to ponder.