Shares of silver mining companies got hammered Monday -- in one case more than 10 percent -- as the futures price of the metal fell on dimming prospects from China and Europe that next year will bring any improvement in demand.
Wang Huajun, deputy secretary-general of the China Nonferrous Metals Industry Association, forecast metal demand in China not growing beyond 10 percent next year.
At the same time, he said non-iron ore metal prices would also go down in the next 12 months.
The slower Chinese demand actually started this year, placing pressure on metal prices and causing it to drop 23 percent this year at the London Metal Exchange LMEX Index -- its first decline in price in three years.
The news from Europe continued to be negative. In addition to the slew of Eurozone sovereign debt and European bank downgrades, both past and prospective, the head of the European Central Bank warned about the Eurozone's economic outlook.
In Spain, the new prime minister vowed deep spending cuts in all areas except pensions. In Ireland, the GDP shrank 1.9 percent in the third quarter, its steepest decline in two years, and in Italy, bond yields last week rose to a record high in the Eurozone's 12-year history.
The downbeat news from China and the Eurozone offset a smattering of positive news in North America.
Mexico said its October silver production was down 2 percent from year-earlier levels.
U.S. homebuilder sentiment continued improving this month, rising unexpectedly for the third time in as many months. The December increase was the first time in more than two years that sentiment has increased for three consecutive months.
Silver for March delivery, the most actively traded contract on the Comex, fell 80 cents or 2.7 percent to $28.87. On the spot market, silver fell 78 cents to $28.98.
Among miners, one of the steepest declines was posted by Alexco Resources Corp., a Vancouver-based mining company that plunged 10.4 percent. Hecla Mining Co. fell 5.1 percent and Endeavour Silver Corp. tumbled 5.9 percent and Great Panther Silver Ltd. dropped 6.4 percent.
Silver exchanged-traded funds also retreated. The largest, iShares Silver Trust, declined 3.2 percent, Sprott Physical Silver was off 3.1 percent, and Global X Silver Miners decreased 3 percent.