Shares of steel and aluminum manufacturers declined Thursday after fresh signs of slower growth in China and Europe raised questions about the global economy and demand for their products.
A Chinese manufacturing index compiled by HSBC declined to 48.1 in March from 49.6 in February. Figures below 50 indicate that manufacturing is contracting. The report came on the heels of weaker Chinese housing data, adding to questions about the outlook for the world's second-largest economy.
China is a huge importer of raw materials used in everything from power generation to manufacturing and construction. Its robust growth helped support the global economy during the recent recession but the pace has slowed in the past year as the government has implemented measures to prevent the economy from overheating.
Separately, financial information company Markit said its European composite purchasing managers' index fell to 48.8 in March from 49.3 in February. The index combines the services and manufacturing sectors for countries that use the euro.
In addition, new government statistics showed that Ireland dropped back into recession at the end of 2011.
Investors are worried that slower growth in both Europe and China could affect demand for U.S. products and drag down the global economy.
By early afternoon, shares of U.S. Steel Corp. fell $1.44, or 4.6 percent, to $29.85; Nucor Corp. dropped $1.04, or 2.4 percent, to $42.54; AK Steel Holding Corp. declined 23 cents, or 2.8 percent, to $7.89; Alcoa Inc. fell 24 cents, or 2.3 percent, to $10.03; and Century Aluminum Co. dropped 36 cents, or 3.8 percent, to $9.04.