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Stock markets chalk up further losses, U.S. banker JPMorgan misses forecasts

TORONTO - North American stock markets closed in the red for a second session Friday as nervousness about Chinese growth, corporate earnings and stock valuations persuaded investors to sell off ahead of the weekend.

The S&P/TSX composite index lost 50.31 points to 14,257.69. The Canadian dollar dropped 0.42 of a cent to 91.08 cents US.

A disappointing earnings report before the open from banking giant JPMorgan Chase helped push the Dow Jones industrials down 143.47 points 16,026.75, the Nasdaq composite index declined 54.38 points to 3,999.73 and the S&P 500 index gave back 17.39 points to 1,815.69.

JPMorgan Chase shares backed off 3.66 per cent to US$55.30 as it reported its first-quarter profit fell 19 per cent to US$5.3 billion, or $1.28 a share. Revenue fell eight per cent to $22.99 billion, led by weak trading revenue. Analysts had expected earnings of $1.39 a share on revenue of $24.43 billion, according to FactSet.

North American stocks tumbled Thursday following disappointing trade data from China that raised another round of questions about the health of the world's second-biggest economy. Traders are now looking ahead to next week when the Chinese government releases its first-quarter growth figures.

There was another sign of economic weakness in data out Friday which showed that China's growth in auto sales decelerated further in March with sales up 7.9 per cent to 1.7 million vehicles, down from February's 11.3 per cent growth.

Biotech and technology sectors have been particularly in investors' cross hairs.

"There are some areas of the market, and those are the poster children, where one would have to be concerned about valuations," said Paul Taylor, chief investment officer of fundamental Canadian equities at BMO Global Asset Management.

"And so it is healthy to see those areas which have been most frothy if you will, to see them reacting a little more rationally."

After making big gains last year, biotechs have been crushed in recent weeks as they come under pressure to lower prices for their drugs. And traders continued to punish some of the biggest tech giants from last year, including Facebook and Google.

The TSX lost one per cent this past week but New York markets were particularly hammered.

The Dow industrials fell 2.35 per cent, the Nasdaq fell 3.1 per cent, down three weeks in a row in its longest losing streak since November 2012. The S&P 500 moved into negative territory for the year to date, losing 2.65 per cent. Both the Nasdaq and S&P 500 posted their biggest weekly drops since mid-2012.

The gold sector led decliners, down about one per cent while June bullion faded $1.50 to US$1,319 an ounce.

TSX tech and health care stocks also continued to deteriorate and stocks in these two groups led decliners on the Toronto market this week.

The financials sector was off 0.22 per cent following the JPMorgan Chase report.

The base metals group slipped 0.14 per cent while May copper shed early gains and closed unchanged US$3.04 a pound.

The energy sector was slightly higher while the May crude contract on the New York Mercantile Exchange edged up 34 cents to US$103.74 a barrel.

The Canadian Press

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