The Toronto stock market recorded its biggest one-day loss of the year on Wednesday as investors pulled back amid fears that the U.S. economy was showing signs of struggling.  

The S&P/TSX composite index lost 260 points to 12,422, a drop of almost 2.1 per cent.  It was the lowest close for the benchmark TSX index since late December.

Every sector was lower, with the biggest losses coming in the materials and energy sectors.

A private sector jobs report released Wednesday in the U.S. suggested that only 158,000 jobs were created south of the border in March, well below the 215,000 that economists were expecting.

The U.S. Institute for Supply Management's non-manufacturing index slid from 56 to 54.4 last month, also missing analysts' forecasts.

Adding to the gloom was a report that U.S. crude oil storage data showed bigger stockpiles than expected, suggesting that a sluggish U.S. economy wasn't using as much fuel.

Bloomberg reported that crude stockpiles are now at a 22-year high.

Crude oil slumps

Crude oil futures slumped $2.74 to settle at $94.45 US a barrel and natural gas futures fell six cents to $3.90 per million BTUs. The TSX energy group slid 3.3 per cent.  Talisman Energy fell almost five per cent; EnCana dropped almost four per cent.

Gold futures slid more than $22 US an ounce to $1,553 US, touching a nine-month low. Goldcorp and Barrick Gold both tumbled. Barrick slid $1.62 to $27.09; Goldcorp dropped $1.18 to $31.64. Both stocks hit 52-week lows.

U.S. indexes were lower as the Dow Jones industrials gave back 111 points to 14,550, the Nasdaq was down 39 points at 3,219 and the S&P 500 index slipped 17 points to 1,554.

"Given that the markets have run up, (traders) will look for a reason to pull back, and that's healthy," said Kash Pashootan, portfolio manager at Raymond James in Ottawa.

The Canadian dollar closed up .04 cents at 98.57 cents US. 

With files from Canadian Press