NEW YORK (

TheStreet

) -- When China speaks, the global metals-and-mining complex has no choice but to listen.

That was the lesson no one needed to learn Tuesday after the People's Republic's central bank (called, of course, the People's Bank) shocked the planet's investors by announcing an interest-rate hike, the first such tightening in three years.

A cooler Chinese economy means weaker demand for the commodities consumed by the most populous nation in the world, which sports the largest steelmaking industry and the biggest market for such metals as copper and aluminum.

A run-up since summer in prices for those raw materials evaporated in a storm of profit taking Tuesday. The

Dow Jones Industrial Average

was dropping by more than 200 points toward the end of the session, deepening its losses. The Dow Jones Basic Materials Index, meanwhile, was declining by nearly 3%.

Metals and mining stocks have been whipsawed all year on every piece of bearish or bullish news coming from China. Meanwhile, the vicissitudes of the U.S. dollar have also swung commodities prices -- and commodities-linked stocks.

Most recently, a rally in metals prices has been

fueled largely by a weaker greenback

. But the buck rallied Tuesday as investors fled to its relative safety, driving the U.S. dollar index up 1.7% to 78.22.

The news out of Beijing comes ahead of a slew of third-quarter earnings reports from miners and metals companies this week and next. Shares of copper giant

Freeport McMoRan

(FCX) - Get Report

, which reports on Thursday, were down 3.2%.

The Brazilian concern

Vale

(VALE) - Get Report

, the world's biggest iron ore miner and a major supplier to China's steelmakers, saw its American depositary receipts lose 3.3%. Vale reports on Friday.

Caterpillar

(CAT) - Get Report

stock, meanwhile, shed 2.7% to $78.06. The company's business has been buoyed this year by mining equipment sales and by Chinese markets in general, a trend that had pushed its stock to 52-week highs. Caterpillar is also slated to report third-quarter numbers on Thursday morning.

The big Australian miners,

BHP Billiton

(BHP) - Get Report

,

Rio Tinto

(RIO) - Get Report

, who have for various reasons spent the last few weeks in the business-page headlines, also sold off hard on Tuesday.

Last week, the pair announced the abandonment of their planned iron-ore joint venture in Western Australia. And BHP, of course, has been methodically pursuing its

fertilizer takeover prize

,

Potash

(POT)

, which is scheduled to report results Oct. 28.

Back stateside,

Cliffs Natural Resources

(CLF) - Get Report

dropped 5.6%, while coal miners

Walter Energy

(WLT)

and

Peabody Energy

(BTU) - Get Report

lost about 3% apiece.

About the only name in the green among commodities extractors was

Massey Energy

(MEE)

, which reportedly is looking to hire bankers to explore the proverbial strategic alternatives - e.g. a sale. Shares of the scandal-plagued company, which suffered a mining disaster earlier this year, bucked the downdraft and rose 4% Tuesday.

-- Written by Scott Eden in New York

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