Canada's main stock market in Toronto on Wednesday took a deep dive amid rising geopolitical tensions in regions such as Mideast.
The Toronto Stock Exchange's benchmark Standard & Poor's/TSX Composite Index fell 193.34 points, or 1.50 percent, to close at 12,726.80 points. All of the TSX index's eight main sectors lost ground.
Mining stocks slumped, going down 6.12 percent. First Quantum Minerals Ltd. lost 9.32 percent to 4.77 Canadian dollars (about 3.38 U.S. dollars) a share. Teck Resources Limited Class B fell 6.45 percent to 4.93 Canadian dollars a share.
Investors in North America became worried after the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) announced it successfully carried out its first hydrogen bomb test Wednesday.
In Mideast, Saudi Arabia cut off diplomatic ties with Iran over the weekend after angry protesters stormed its embassy in Tehran, the capital of Iran, to protest against Saudi's execution of prominent Shiite cleric Sheikh Nimr Baqir al-Nimr.
TSX's energy group retreated 3.74 percent, with U.S. oil prices sliding more than 5.50 percent to seven-year lows as tensions between Saudi Arabia and Iran made any cooperation between them to cut output even more unlikely.
The most influential movers included energy producer Encana Corp., which fell 5.82 percent to 6.96 Canadian dollars a share, and Suncor Energy Inc., Canada's largest oil and gas company, which declined 3.67 percent to 34.10 dollars a share.
The index's financials group shed 1.78 percent, with Toronto-Dominion Bank down 2.49 percent, Royal Bank of Canada down 1.72 percent and Bank of Nova Scotia off 1.73 percent.
On the positive side, gold miners rose, including Barrick Gold, which jumped 4.58 percent to 11.19 Canadian dollars a share, and Goldcorp, which advanced 2.59 percent to 16.62 dollars a share.
Automakers sold fewer light vehicles in Canada in December, but reported record-breaking sales of trucks and cars for 2015, an automotive consultant said.
On the economic front, Statistics Canada reported Wednesday that the country's imports decreased 0.7 percent in November and exports increased 0.4 percent. The country's exports grew for the first time in four months. As a result, the agency said, Canada's merchandise trade deficit with the world narrowed from 1.8 billion U.S. dollars in October to 1.4 billion in November.
The Bank of Canada is counting on export growth and stability in crude prices to revive the economy after what may have been the slowest annual expansion since 2009. Yet speculation is brewing that policy makers will drop their target interest rate a quarter-point to 0.25 percent, where it bottomed in the 2009-2010 period, in face of declines in the price of oil, among Canada's largest exports.
"Maybe we're underestimating how weak emerging markets will be to start the year; that's something that would weigh on Canada too," said Mark Chandler, head of Canadian fixed-income strategy at Royal Bank of Canada's RBC Capital Markets unit in Toronto.
The Canadian dollar broke another long-term record Wednesday, dipping briefly below 0.71 U.S. dollar for the first time in more than 12 years. It was traded at 0.7102 U.S. dollar, compared with Tuesday's closing at 0.7148 U.S. dollar.