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Toronto stocks set for second straight weekly fall as financials, energy weigh

Kitco News

March 17 (Reuters) - Canada's main stock index fell on Friday, dragged down by losses in financials as fears of a global banking meltdown continued to worry investors, while lower oil prices weighed on energy stocks.

At 10:24 a.m. ET (1424 GMT), the Toronto Stock Exchange's S&P/TSX composite index (.GSPTSE) was down 197.19 points, or 1.01%, at 19,341.82. The index is down over 2% so far this week, and is on track for a second straight week of losses.

Financials (.SPTTFS), the largest sector by weight on the Canadian index, led the decline in the benchmark, dropping 1.7%, as the banking sector turbulence continued to deter investors.

Fears of a banking meltdown failed to subside even after major U.S. banks offered a $30 billion lifeline for beleaguered First Republic Bank (FRC.N), while Credit Suisse also received an emergency liquidity line from the Swiss central bank.

Recent actions by regulators to stabilize markets have failed to restore confidence in the banking sector, said Nicolas Katsiyianis, head of research at Eight Capital, in Toronto.

"Maybe they put them to rest for a few days, but the market has an amazing ability to find the next victim."

Energy stocks (.SPTTEN) lost 1.7% as oil prices fell over 1%.

Pot stocks such as Canopy Growth Corp (WEED.TO) and Cronos Group (CRON.TO) fell in a broader sell-off, dragging the healthcare index (.GSPTTHC) down 1.8%.

Bucking the trend, the materials sector (.GSPTTMT), which includes precious and base metal miners and fertilizer companies, gained 1.2% as investors fled to safe-haven bullion, pushing precious metal prices higher.

Among individual stocks, Ballard Power Systems Inc (BLDP.TO) dropped to the bottom of TSX, down 6.7%, after its fourth-quarter revenue missed analysts' estimates.

Meanwhile, producer prices in Canada fell by 0.8% in February from January.

Reporting by Shashwat Chauhan in Bengaluru; Editing by Shilpi Majumdar
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