TORONTO — Oil prices fell below US$30 a barrel for the first time in nearly two weeks as North American markets posted steep losses today.The March contract for benchmark U.S. oil fell US$1.74 to US$29.88 a barrel, falling beneath the US$30-mark for the first time since Jan. 21 when it settled at US$29.53 a barrel.Crude has lost nearly US$4 over two days, roiling markets worldwide.The Toronto Stock Exchange’s S&P/TSX index fell 232.11 points to 12,442.26, adding to a weak start to the month’s trading.It has lost 379.87 points over the first two days of February.The loonie was off exactly half a cent at 71.29 cents US.New York indexes were also in full retreat, with the Dow Jones industrial average plummeting 295.64 points at 16,153.54, while the S&P 500 fell 36.35 points to 1,903.03 and the Nasdaq lost 103.42 points to 4,516.95.Elsewhere in commodities, March natural gas fell 12.7 cents to US$2.025 per mmBtu, while April gold dropped 80 cents to US$1,127.20 a troy ounce.

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