Metals & Mining Winners: Rio, Freeport - TheStreet

NEW YORK (

TheStreet

) -- Metals and mining shares again led U.S. equities on a strong move northward Tuesday after a steep retreat over the last several trading sessions.

Investors poured back into the shares of commodities and raw-materials-linked companies, seeking risk after worries over a European sovereign debt crisis eased on Tuesday.

The U.S. dollar lost ground against foreign currencies, which made dollar-denominated commodities more appealing to investors -- and up went the prices of base as well as

precious metals, especially gold

, not to mention

energy commodities

.

A day before

BHP Billiton

(BHP) - Get Report

reports quarterly earnings, the first of the world's big three mining operation's to release results over the next two days, shares of BHP,

Rio Tinto

( RTP) and

Vale

(VALE) - Get Report

moved sharply higher.

Rio's New York-listed American depositary receipts paced the gainers, adding more than 7% to $200.72, while BHP rose 5.2% to $71.41.

Brazil's Vale, the world's largest iron-ore extractor, saw its stock jump 4.5% to $26.32 Tuesday despite word from Brasilia that the government might impose a tax levy on iron ore exports. Brazil's mining minister, Edison Lobao, suggested the tax -- a bid to pressure Vale into giving a hand to the country's homegrown steelmaking industry, instead of sending all that ore overseas -- in an interview with

Bloomberg

reporters Tuesday. Australian government officials have also reportedly been considering a new iron-ore tax.

Stateside, shares of copper giant

Freeport McMoRan

(FCX) - Get Report

jumped 3.9% to $71.89, and aluminum behemoth

Alcoa

(AA) - Get Report

1.8% to $13.30. Many analysts have been coming out recently with

predictions of another bumper year for base metals

-- and the shares of base-metals extractors.

The Canadian diversified miner

Teck Resources

(TCK)

, meanwhile, whose shares have been a force of nature since the company saved itself from the brink of default in early 2009, reported strong quarterly results on Monday. Shares of Teck, which mines zinc, copper and metallurgical coal -- or the kind of coal used to make steel -- were up 6% to $33.93 Tuesday afternoon. Since hitting a low of less than $3 a share last March, the stock has exploded, gaining more than 1,200%.

Elsewhere, steel names were stronger Tuesday, with

U.S. Steel

(X) - Get Report

gaining 4.6% and

Nucor

(NUE) - Get Report

up a relatively modest 2.5%.

Foreign steelmakers saw their U.S.-listed issues pace the sector Tuesday. European giant

ArcelorMittal

(MT) - Get Report

was advancing by 5%, Korea's

Posco

(PKX) - Get Report

by 6% and Russia's

Mechel

(MTL) - Get Report

, a highly volatile name, by 8%.

-- Written by Scott Eden in New York

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Scott Eden has covered business -- both large and small -- for more than a decade. Prior to joining TheStreet.com, he worked as a features reporter for Dealmaker and Trader Monthly magazines. Before that, he wrote for the Chicago Reader, that city's weekly paper. Early in his career, he was a staff reporter at the Dow Jones News Service. His reporting has appeared in The Wall Street Journal, Men's Journal, the St. Petersburg (Fla.) Times, and the Believer magazine, among other publications. He's also the author of Touchdown Jesus (Simon & Schuster, 2005), a nonfiction book about Notre Dame football fans and the business and politics of big-time college sports. He has degrees from Notre Dame and Washington University in St. Louis.