Billions wiped off metal stocks after China, EU and US deliver economic shocks

The mining sector’s bellwether companies were all beaten down on Thursday as the price of metals and minerals continued to slide and economic indicators from across the globe painted a bleak picture for the mining industry.

Mining stocks are particularly sensitive to bad news out of China and a new survey that showed manufacturing activity in the country is set to decline for the eighth month in a row in June, set the bearish tone for the day.

The same survey conducted in Europe also released on Thursday supplied more reasons to sell – Europe’s banking and sovereign debt crisis is now dragging down even the powerhouse of the region Germany with factory output contracting at its fastest pace in three years.

As if that was not enough US manufacturing data released as the New York market opened also indicated an already tepid recovery was losing steam.

London-based diversified miner Anglo American lost a whopping 7.1% in value while the two giant Australian miners Rio Tinto and BHP Billiton lost 5.2% and 5.3% respectively.

Shares of Brazil’s Vale SA trading in New York gave up 4.2% while Xstrata’s ADRs dropped 6.7%. The two North American giants Teck Resource and Freeport-McMoRan also suffered more than 6% declines.

Despite a pick-up in the price of iron ore in recent weeks – in stark contrast to fresh lows for copper and a sell-off in precious metals – South Africa’s Kumba Iron Ore and Australia’s Fortescue Metals also plunged.

Not surprisingly the gold-focused miners were also hard hit with Newmont Mining, Anglogold Ashanti, Gold Fields. Kinross and Barrick all down more than 5%. Number two producer Goldcorp came off best of the heavyweights giving up 4.3% as it tracked a $50 an ounce slide in the price of the yellow metal.

While still showing gains for 2012, gold is now down 17% from its all-time record high of $1,911.60 an ounce set on September 6 last year while copper, which fell to $3.29 a pound on Thursday is down 6% since the start of the year and has retreated more than 25% from historic highs hit at the end of July 2011.

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