A major Canadian bank says the economy ground to a halt in the second quarter and could slip into recession if the United States continues to weaken.

In a report Wednesday, TD Bank estimated zero growth for Canada in the second quarter which ended June 30. The bank also said there's a reasonable chance the economy actually shrank in the spring quarter.

"If a contraction is realized, worries that Canada's economy has already entered a recession will increase, especially in light of the financial market turmoil that erupted midway through the third quarter," TD said in a report.

Economists define a recession as two consecutive quarters that real gross domestic product shrinks.

Canada last slipped into recession in 2008-2009 after the Wall Street financial crisis sparked a global credit crunch that battered economies around the world and led to a huge restructuring in the North American auto sector, with the loss of tens of thousands of jobs.

Linked to U.S. fortunes

Statistics Canada has said that the recession lasted from the fourth quarter of 2008 to the second quarter of 2009 but was less severe and shorter than in other G7 countries.

Between the third quarter of 2008 and the third quarter of 2009, Canada's real GDP fell 3.3 per cent, compared with 3.7 per cent in the United States and bigger declines in Europe and Japan.

In its report Wednesday, TD Bank said it expects the U.S. economy to narrowly avoid a recession in the coming quarters. But if the forecast is wrong that could spell trouble for Canada.

The U.S. is being squeezed by a troubled housing market, weak consumer and business confidence and worries about government debt.

"If the U.S. economy contracts, the chances that Canada will follow suit are high," TD said.

TD's new economic outlook calls for the Canadian economy to grow 2.3 per cent for 2011, down from a June forecast of 2.8 per cent.

TD also cut its expectations for 2012 to growth of two per cent compared with an previous estimate of 2.5 per cent.