TORONTO — Concerns that stock markets are getting too far ahead of themselves dragged both New York and Toronto markets lower on Thursday, motivated further by disappointing German economic data.
The S&P/TSX composite index plunged 205.87 points to 14,460.60, pressured by oil prices that fell to the lowest level since December 2012. The Canadian dollar dropped 0.56 of a cent lower to 89.50 cents US.
The Dow Jones industrials tumbled 334.97 points to 16,659.25, erasing gains made Wednesday from indications the Federal Reserve is in no hurry to hike interest rates.
The Nasdaq dropped 90.25 points to 4,378.34 and the S&P 500 index gave back 40.68 points to 1,928.21 after the latest data showed German exports in August dropped 5.8 per cent over July as increasing uncertainty over the crisis in Ukraine helped to produce the largest drop in five years.
The data prompted ING economist Carsten Brzeski to say that "the economy seems to need a small miracle in September to avoid a recession.''
The figures came out a day after minutes from the latest U.S. Federal Reserve meeting showed that Fed officials are becoming increasingly concerned about weak overseas growth.
A faltering global economy is one reason that Fed officials have moved away from linking any increase in interest rates to any specific period, meaning rates will rise only when measures of the economy's health and inflation signalled the time was right.
The TSX has had a tough time since hitting 2014 highs in late August, having fallen more than 1,100 points from a year-to-date gain of over 14 per cent on economic concerns and a surging U.S. dollar.
New York markets are also off the best levels of the year and some analysts think seasonality is also a culprit.
"People come back from vacation, see (the market) at all-time highs and say, they're due for a pullback, let's pull some money off the table,'' said Allan Small, a senior adviser at HollisWealth.
Small doesn't think investors are in for a major correction in the 15 per cent range, but thinks markets will stay choppy until after late in October.
At that point, "you will see strong fundamentals out of the companies that are reporting earnings over the next few weeks and I am hoping that will be enough to calm the markets, regardless of what economic data is coming out of Europe,'' he said.
Activist investor Carl Icahn is more alarmed at the market shifts, and told CNBC in an interview that he believes a market correction is "definitely coming.''
The latest batch of negative data pushed oil prices lower after falling $3 over the last two sessions on signs of lower demand and a sharp rise in U.S. inventories last week. The November contract in New York settled down $1.54, near a 22-month low at US$85.77 a barrel with the energy sector losing 2.8 per cent.
The base metals component lost 3.4 per cent even as December copper gained three cents to US$3.03 a pound.
The gold sector declined as December gold jumped $19.30 to US$1,225.30 an ounce.
On the corporate front, Canadian Tire Corp. (TSX:CTC.A) plans to invest an average of $575 million annually over the next three years on business improvements while buying back an additional $400 million of its class A non-voting shares by the end of 2015. Its shares rose $3.42 to $120.50 after hitting a 52-week high of C$120.53 earlier in the session.