TORONTO (AP) _ Negotiators today held out hope that 10,000 Chrysler Canada Ltd. workers could soon return to work and reported progress toward ending a 2-day-old walkout that forced two U.S. plants to shut down.

Canadian Auto Workers President Bob White said a settlement can be reached by the weekend after the company made a ''major step'' toward the union's key demand of indexing pensions.

''The mood around the table here today is that we will drive for a settlement this weekend,'' White said after a series of meetings with his caucus and company negotiators that ended early this morning.

Chrysler's chief negotiator Bill Fisher said earlier today he is optimistic a settlement is possible.

White said he expected a proposal with the company's new position on pensions to be presented tonight or early Thursday morning.

''We finally convinced them our position was not going to change,'' said White. ''They are prepared to take a major step towards us.''

The union has scheduled weekend meetings for workers at four Ontario plants affected by the strike. If a settlement is reached by then, the meetings will be used to ratify the contract.

White said he would discuss the developments with his caucus at a meeting today.

In the United States, negotiations continued today between the United Auto Workers and Ford Motor Co. Workers, however, remain on the job after the union decided to extend its strike deadline of midnight Monday night for its 104,000 U.S. members at Ford.

The strike by employees of Chrysler Corp.'s Canadian subsidiary cut off parts to the United States and led the automaker to send home nearly 2,300 workers at plants in Belvidere, Ill., and Warren, Mich. The workers remained idle today.

Canadian Chrysler workers went on strike at four plants at midnight Monday. The union's key demand is an indexing program that would link pensions to inflation. The union also is trying to win back a 3 percent annual wage increase it gave up during contract talks in 1982.

Chrysler Canada has accused the union of making ''radical'' demands that would cost the company $35 million a year and hurt its ability to compete.

The strike is the first since the Canadian Auto Workers split with their U.S. counterparts in 1985. But Chrysler workers in Canada have walked off the job in every set of contract talks since 1959 - with 5-week strikes in 1982 and 1964.

Affected in the current strike are two assembly plants in Windsor, near Detroit; a casting plant in the Toronto suburb of Etobicoke; and the Ajax plant outside Toronto, which supplies door panels and other trim parts for all but one U.S. Chrysler plant.

Chrysler's minivans are made exclusively in Windsor.

Workers at the four plants operated picket lines around the clock.

In Ajax, pickets Carolyn Turkocio, 38, and Wendy Rushworth, 22, said they would stay out until the company comes up with a better pension plan.

''It doesn't affect me but there are a lot of workers who will be going into the world without decent pensions,'' said Turkocio, an employee for two years.

''You support everyone, you pull together like a family,'' said Rushworth.