Toronto is a commercial, distribution, financial and industrial centre. It is the banking and stock exchange centre of the country, and is Canada's primary wholesale and distribution point. Its importance as a seaport increased after the opening of the St. Lawrence Seaway, but has since diminished and is disused (see: Waterfront). Ontario's wealth of raw materials and hydroelectric power have made Toronto a primary centre of industry. The city and its surrounding area produces more than half of Canada's manufactured goods.

Until the 1970s, Toronto was the second largest city in Canada, after Montreal. The economic growth of Toronto was greatly stimulated by the development of the auto industry and of large mineral resources in its hinterland, and by the completion in 1959 of the St. Lawrence Seaway which allowed ships access to the Great Lakes from the Atlantic Ocean. Further growth in the Toronto area is often attributed to the rise of Quebec separatism, though the extent of its influence is still contested by some, who argue that its effect was exaggerated by the English media. During the 1970s, the Quebec Liberal Party and the Parti Québécois enacted a series of French-language laws, which were perceived as unfavourable towards English-language businesses (especially Multinationals, whose markets extended far beyond Quebec's borders) and English-speaking Montrealers, and some of the former (including the Bank of Montreal) and a number of the latter relocated to Toronto where French is not necessary for business.

.The City of Toronto's gross domestic product (GDP) is US$225 billion and Metropolitan Toronto's GDP is US$305 billion. Compared to other global metropolises, the size of Metropolitan Toronto's economy is 7th in the world (after New York City, London, Tokyo, Paris, Los Angeles, and Chicago).



As the business and financial capital of the country, Toronto is one of the world's largest financial centres and hosts the Toronto Stock Exchange (TSX), the second largest stock exchange in North America by market capitalisation and sixth in the world (see List of stock exchanges for complete rankings). The TSX has led North American exchanges by being the second to trade electronically and the first to become listed publicly; in the last decade, it has also generally outperformed various major stock exchanges worldwide. The Toronto financial industry is based on Bay Street, the city's equivalent to Wall Street in New York.

A number of major corporations are based in the city, including the Hudson's Bay Company, Manulife Financial, TD Canada Trust, Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce, Royal Bank of Canada, Scotiabank, Bank of Montreal, Celestica, Four Seasons Hotels, Rogers Communications, MDS Inc. and many others. Numerous other companies are based in the Greater Toronto Area outside of the city limits, such as Nortel, IBM Canada, Citibank Canada and Magna International.



In recent years, Toronto has become one of the centres of Canada's film industry, along with Vancouver, due to the lower cost of producing films and television shows in Canada. The city's streets and landmarks can be seen in a variety of different films, mimicking the streets of major American cities such as Chicago and New York.



Many specialty shops can be found in Toronto near Bloor & Bay, including exclusive boutiques and toy stores. Thanks possibly to the climate, Toronto has an extensive set of underground shopping areas, typically operating 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. in the PATH complex centred roughly at King & Bay, as well as a few others such as at Yonge & Bloor. These stores are generally fashion stores, but some specialty toy stores and access to larger stores are available in these complexes.

Along Queen St. East can be found Toronto's biggest camera stores. Big-box stores are not generally found in Downtown Toronto, but the suburbs have many large malls, big-box stores as well as specialty stores, such as near Orfus Road (discount fashions, lighting, etc.) close to Yorkdale mall.

The fashion district is located near King & Spadina, close to the old Chinatown to the north and entertainment district to the east. It is here that Sunday shopping in Toronto first got its start in the 1980s.

St. Lawrence market is a large, historic vendors market with an open air section during the summer months featuring fresh locally grown produce. Kensington Market also has an outdoor vendor section located close to Chinatown.

The city itself has many large and unique malls and shopping centres. Shopping in Toronto has become a large draw for tourists, with for example, the Eaton Centre receiving a special designation as a tourist attraction in the 1980s.



Toronto is touted as one of the top cities in North America for fine dining and quality of restaurants. It has been argued that Toronto is rated as number two in North America behind New York as to the number of quality restaurants that the city maintains. Toronto boasts a wide variety of different high-end cuisines because of its cultural diversity.