Agrium loses 10% after big earnings miss

Agrium Inc. (TSX, NYSE:AGU) fell by as much as 10% on Wednesday on massive trading volumes, after announcing a big miss for its third-quarter results.

Net earnings fell to $129 million, or 80 cents per share, from $293 million, or $1.85 per share, a year ago.

The weak performance was blamed on a soft market and downtime at its potash operations. Sales for the quarter slipped 6% to $2.96 billion.

The Calgary-based company now expects fourth-quarter earnings of $1.50 to $1.90 per share, well below analysts' expectations of $2.10.

By early afternoon the miner was trading down 9.8% at $95.84 on the Toronto big board, affording it a market cap of $15.2 billion. The counter is still showing robust 2012 gains – it is up 40% year to date.

Other potash heavyweights Potashcorp of Saskatchewan and Mosaic also retreated in a generally weak market.