U.S. miners, steel shares drop on China slowdown

NEW YORK, March 22 Thu Mar 22, 2012 2:30pm EDT

NEW YORK, March 22 (Reuters) - Shares in U.S. steelmakers and coal and metal miners dropped on Thursday on signs that industrial growth was slowing in China, a big consumer of metal and raw materials for its economic building.

Benchmark copper fell 1.95 percent to a two-week low on the London Metal Exchange (LME) at $8,290 a tonne and other

metals, such as nickel, lead and zinc, slid to multi-month lows.

Gold also fell to its lowest price in more than two months, as worries about continued contraction in manufacturing in both the euro zone and China triggered a broad sell-off. Spot gold was down 0.7 percent at $1,637.60 an ounce in New York.

The markets were reacting to data from China showing manufacturing sector activity shrank in March with the overall rate of contraction accelerating and new orders sinking to a four-month low.

In afternoon trading on the New York Stock Exchange, Freeport-McMoRan Copper & Gold was 4.1 percent lower at $38.14. U.S. Steel dropped 5.3 percent to $29.63 and rival Nucor was down 2.1 percent at $42.66.

Cliffs Natural Resources - which mines iron ore and coking coal, both raw materials for steel - saw its stock drop 3.8 percent to $68.38. Coal miner Alpha Natural Resources fell 4.3 percent to $15.97, Arch Coal slipped 3.7 percent to $11.61 and another coal producer Consol Energy dropped 3.5 percent to $33.26.

The Dow Jones coal index was down 3.54 percent and the steel index dropped 3.31 percent.

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