Stocks on Thursday fell for the third straight day, though U.S. indexes flirted with positive territory throughout the afternoon.
The Dow Jones industrial average closed at 13,060.14, down 14.61 points or 0.1 per cent. The broader S&P 500 closed at 1398.08, down 0.88 point or less than 0.1 per cent. In Canada, the S&P/TSX composite index closed at 12,103.11, down 75.55 points or 0.6 per cent.
The economic backdrop in North America was fine. The U.S. Labor Department reported that weekly initial jobless claims fell to a fresh four-year low of 357,000. And in Canada, employers added a net 82,300 jobs in March, well ahead of the 10,500 job gains that economists had been expecting.
However, the situation was far from fine overseas, where markets have grown increasingly agitated over rising borrowing costs for some of Europe's most indebted countries, especially Spain. There, government bond yields rose to their highest levels of the year, following Wednesday's disappointing government bond auction, feeding fears that the country is sliding toward a financial crisis.
Commodity prices rose after a two day selloff: Crude oil rose to $103.31 (U.S.) a barrel, up $1.84. Gold rose to $1,630.10 an ounce, up $16. However, commodity producers didn't move in the same direction, which weighed on the commodity-heavy TSX. Among key Canadian names, Suncor Energy Inc. fell 2.6 per cent, Canadian Oil Sands Ltd. fell 0.3 per cent and Barrick Gold Corp. fell 1.6 per cent.
Among U.S. stocks, Verizon Communications Inc. fell 1.9 per cent, AT&T Inc. fell 2 per cent, Alcoa Inc. fell 1.8 per cent and General Electric Co. fell 1.3 per cent.
However, Home Depot Inc. rose 1.5 per cent and McDonald's Corp. rose 1.2 per cent.