The Toronto stock market dropped almost 200 points near midday as uncertainty over European economic recovery impacted global markets.
The S&P/TSX Composite Index approached noon off 150.57 points, or 1.2%, to 11,997.21, well off its highs for the day.
The Canadian dollar slid 0.21 cents, to 100.66 cents U.S.
On the economic slate, Statistics Canada said that wholesale sales climbed more than expected in February, rising 1.6% to $48.5 billion, mostly on the strength of motor-vehicle and machinery and equipment sales.
The TSX Venture Exchange tumbled 29.79 points to 1,368.16, while the Nasdaq Canada index dropped 8.60 points to 402.91
All 14 Toronto subgroups were down at the outset. Metals and mining stocks collapsed 3.7%, global base metals 2.7%, and materials 2.6%
In New York, stocks fell Monday on concerns about European political uncertainty and another sign of a slowdown in the Chinese economy.
The Dow Jones Industrials erased 131.04 points, or 1%, at Monday noon to 12,898.20
The S&P 500 fell 13.88 points to 1,364.65, and the Nasdaq shed 37.47 points to 2,962.98
On the domestic front, Monday will begin one of the biggest weeks for corporate earnings, as a number of telecoms, tech firms and energy companies will weigh in during the week with first-quarter numbers.
Two deals were announced early Monday. Dow component Pfizer reached an agreement to sell its baby formula business to Nestlé for $11.85 billion U.S. in cash. And AstraZeneca announced it is buying Ardea Biosciences, a California-based biotechnology company, for $1.3 billion U.S., or $32 U.S. a share -- a 54% premium from Friday's closing price.
Xerox and ConocoPhillips released first-quarter results ahead of the opening bell.
Xerox reported adjusted earnings of 23 cents U.S. a share, unchanged from a year earlier and matching forecasts. Its shares spiked following the report.
But while ConocoPhillips posted improved earnings of $2.02 U.S. a share, it fell short of forecasts of a $2.08 U.S. a share. Its shares lost 2%.
After the closing bell, Netflix will release first-quarter data. Analysts expect the company to post a loss of 27 cents U.S. per share.
Wal-Mart dragged down the Dow after it was hit by allegations in the New York Times over the weekend that top executives in its Mexican division attempted to conceal a widespread bribery scheme from the company's headquarters. Shares dropped nearly 5%, and shares of its publicly traded Mexico unit dropped nearly 12%. The company says it is investigating.
The latest reading on euro-zone manufacturing also fell unexpectedly Monday to the lowest level since November, a sign that the 17-nation block has fallen further into recession.
Worries that the problems in Europe are still not over were further driven home by Christine Lagarde, the managing director of the International Monetary Fund. Lagarde warned at meetings of the IMF and World Bank over the weekend that the "dark clouds on the horizon" for the global economy threatened the "light recovery blowing in a spring wind."
In the euro-zone, news that French President Nicolas Sarkozy, one of the architects of the European agreement to avert sovereign debt default, finished in second place in the initial round of presidential elections Sunday raised concerns that France would be less likely to work to keep the euro-zone together.
Sarkozy will now face Socialist candidate Francois Hollande, who has been openly hostile to E.U. austerity measures, in a May 6 runoff.
Meanwhile, Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte resigned Monday, prompting new elections, after one of his coalition partners in the government withdrew due to negotiations over the 2013 budget.
This could place the Netherlands' AAA credit rating at risk, according to experts.
Fueling investor concerns about the global economy was a preliminary reading on Chinese manufacturing released early Monday, showing a contraction for the second straight month.
On the economic scene, annual reports on the financial health of U.S. Social Security and Medicare are due out Monday afternoon.
The price on the benchmark 10-year U.S. Treasury galloped ahead, driving the yield down to 1.93% from Friday's 1.97%. Treasury prices and yields move in opposite directions.
Oil for May delivery settled $1.71 to $102.17 U.S. a barrel.
Gold futures for June delivery lost $15.90 to $1,626.90 U.S. an ounce.