Stocks tumble as earnings misses remind traders of flagging global growth

The Toronto stock market tumbled almost 200 points Tuesday amid sliding commodity prices as U.S. earnings disappointments and a fresh round of worry centred on Europe’s debt crisis reminded investors about flagging global growth.The S&P/TSX composite index fell 188.7 points to 12,214.85 with losses spread across all sectors, while the TSX Venture Exchange lost 18.59 points to 1,289.82.U.S. markets were sharply lower in the wake of disappointments from Dow heavyweights DuPont and 3M.The Dow industrials plunged 234.73 points to 13,111.63, the Nasdaq was down 27.12 points to 2,989.84 while the S&P 500 index fell 20.72 points to 1,413.1.The Canadian dollar pared early losses as the Bank of Canada said it was keeping its key rate unchanged at one per cent while keeping intact language warning that it will raise rates at some point.The currency dipped 0.02 of a cent to 100.73 cents US. It had earlier traded as low as 100.23 cents, its lowest level since early August, amid speculation that the central bank’s statement would take a less hawkish stance on raising rates.Instead the bank maintained the key message of previous statements — that there will need to be modest rate hikes — with the slight modification that added “over time” to the equation.In a speech last week, Carney had omitted a statement that “modest withdrawal of money policy will likely be required” — leading observers to think the central bank was signalling a more definitive change to its policy.Meanwhile, chemical maker DuPont reported net income of US$10 million Tuesday, or a penny per share. Excluding one-time items, DuPont earned 44 cents per share, compared with 69 cents per share for last year’s third quarter. The results fell short of the average estimate of 46 cents per share, and DuPont’s stock slid 8.9 per cent to US$45.33.And conglomerate 3M said its third-quarter profit edged up to $1.16 billion, or $1.65 a share, which met estimates. Sales dipped 0.4 per cent to $7.5 billion, which missed expectations of $7.63 billion. 3M also cut its 2012 profit estimate to reflect “current economic realities.”3M makes everything from Post-it notes and Scotch tape to roofing granules, coatings for LCD screens and traffic sign coatings. The variety of its businesses and its worldwide footprint make it an economic bellwether and its shares fell $3.23 to US$89.30.Some of the disappointing revenue is because of weakness in foreign markets. Multinational companies are having a hard time selling to Europe, which is struggling under a debt crisis and a spreading recession.“The recession in Europe is very real,” said Bernard Schoenfeld, senior investment strategist for Bank of New York Mellon Wealth Management in New York. “It’s not going to disappear very quickly, and it will certainly negatively affect earnings of exporters in the United States.”The red-hot growth enjoyed by emerging markets like China and India is also slowing.The news was more positive from Canadian National Railways (TSX:CNR), which said after the close Monday it was maintaining its earnings growth outlook for 2012 despite anticipating a difficult end to the year due to a weak economy.CN said it earned $664 million, or $1.52 per diluted and adjusted share, for the period ended Sept. 30., beating analyst estimates by a penny. But its shares were down 36 cents to $86.71. Expectations for this earnings season were already muted with analysts expecting the first year-over-year drop since 2009.Analysts at Credit Suisse said in a report Tuesday that “roughly 25 per cent of the way through the U.S. reporting season, annual earnings per share growth is broadly flat.”The financial sector fell 1.5 per cent amid major acquisition news from the Canadian banking sector.Royal Bank of Canada (TSX:RY) confirmed it will acquire the Canadian auto finance and deposit business of Ally Financial Inc. The bank says its net cost for the deal will be about $1.4 billion but its shares got caught in the overall market downdraft and lost $1.50 to $57.10.And U.S. discount retailer Target is selling its credit card portfolio to TD Bank Group (TSX:TD) for about $5.9 billion. TD also agreed to a seven-year deal to underwrite, fund and own the retailer’s future credit card and Visa receivables in the United States. TD stock shed $1.09 to $81.83.Commodities weakened amid a move by Moody’s Investor Services to downgrade five Spanish regions to below investment grade.Spain has been the flashpoint of the eurozone’s credit crisis as the country endures its second recession in three years with near 25 per cent unemployment after the property market collapsed in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis, at the same time crippling the country’s banks.The base metals sector dropped 2.7 per cent as copper prices fell back with the December contract on the Nymex down five cents at US$3.57 a pound. Copper is viewed as an economic bellwether as it is used in so many applications and economic worries have sent prices 18 cents or five per cent in the past four sessions. Teck Resources (TSX:TCK.B) shed 84 cents to $30.49.Oil prices headed lower with the December contract on the New York Mercantile Exchange losing $2.42 to US$86.23 a barrel.The energy sector lost 2.3 per cent as Suncor Energy (TSX:SU) gave back 84 cents to $32.54. December bullion gave back $16.90 to US$1,709.40 an ounce, its lowest close since early September, and the gold sector lost two per cent. Goldcorp Inc. (TSX:G) faded 77 cents to US$42.61.