The S&P/TSX composite index was off by almost 200 points at midday, as oil companies and other commodities sold off heavily.
The catalyst, again, was oil. The price of a barrel of benchmark North American crude oil lost almost $2 to settle at $46.46 US in the afternoon. That's a continuation of a multi-week theme, as oil has gone from $105 a barrel in the summer to less than half of that because of oversupply.
"I think we're going to see plenty more volatility in the coming days as pressure mounts on oil producers to scale back production before prices get dangerously low," said Craig Erlam, market analyst at Alpari.
"The speed has been breathtaking," said David Wolf, portfolio manager and co-manager of Fidelity Canadian Asset Allocation Fund.
"And I think one of the reasons that equity markets are struggling with this is because it is a bit reminiscent of what happened in late 2008, so the surrounding memories of that are an economy in freefall."
Oil market watchers are already expecting that, as Goldman Sachs slashed its forecast for price for this year and next. It said the benchmark New York rate would average $50.40 a barrel this year, far below its previous forecast of $83.75.
That was bad news for the loonie, which lost almost half a cent to trade at 83.80 cents US around noon.
But it wasn't just oil dragging the TSX lower, as mining companies and banks — usually the bastion of Canadian stocks — were also lower, in part because of fears of how exposed their books are to loans in the oil patch that may turn out badly.
Gold was a source of strength, up 3.5 per cent as the February bullion contract gained $10 to $1,226.10 US an ounce.