NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Copper prices were being gutted Thursday on fears China, the world's largest copper consumer, was losing its appetite for the red metal.

Copper prices plummeted 6.5% to a year-low of $3.5205 per pound in U.S. trading.

In Asia, an initial reading on Chinese manufacturing suggested a contraction in September. HSBC's preliminary China Manufacturing Purchasing Managers index slipped to a reading of 49.4 in September from August's level of 49.9.

A reading below 50 signals economic

contraction

-- and that's bad news for copper. China is responsible for 37% of the world's copper demand.

Economists now expect China's Purchasing Managers' Index, due next Thursday, to signal a contraction in the manufacturing sector for the first time since February 2009.

This, as bad economic news continued flowing out of Europe and North America, which are responsible for 19% and 11% of the world's copper demand respectively.

The U.S. Labor Department's report, yet again, of a weak jobs market marked by below-expected consensus numbers for the week ending Sept. 17, was preceded by the Federal Reserve's announcement on Wednesday that it would carry out "operation twist" -- selling short-term debt to buy $400 billion of longer-term debt to lower borrowing costs to stimulate the economy -- as expected.

Furthermore, Fed officials admitted that the economic slump wouldn't be going away anytime soon.

This, as a survey from financial information company Markit suggested potential recessionary conditions in the Eurozone.

Copper prices have dropped 20% this year.

Copper wasn't alone in its woes on Thursday. Gold, stocks, silver, crude oil, coffee and sugar were all being hammered.

As Commerzbank Commodity Research analysts pointed out, "in the current market environment, the risks are clearly to the downside."

Copper mining and other mining and mining-related stocks were trading in negative territory.

Freeport-McMoRan Copper & Gold

(FCX) - Get Freeport-McMoRan, Inc. (FCX) Report

was plummeting 7.3% to $33.01;

Southern Copper Corporation

TheStreet Recommends

(SCCO) - Get Southern Copper Corporation Report

was tumbling 5.8% to $26.32;

Silvercorp Metals

(SVM) - Get Silvercorp Metals Inc. Report

was plunging 6.2% to $6.69;

Goldcorp

(GG)

was losing 6.5% to $47.93;

Caterpillar

(CAT) - Get Caterpillar Inc. Report

was surrendering 6% to $74.60 ;

Joy Global

( JOYG) was fumbling 6.3% to $66.02; and

Ivanhoe Mines

( IVN) was falling 4% to $16.16.

-- Written by Andrea Tse in New York.

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Andrea Tse

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