* Rio and BHP heavyweight fallers following GDP miss
By Alistair Smout
LONDON, April 15 (Reuters) - Mining stocks led Britain's top share index lower on Monday following disappointing data from China, the world's largest consumer of metals, and a continued sell-off in the gold market.
China's economic recovery unexpectedly slowed in the first quarter, catching some investors by surprise after a surge in banking liquidity and rise in export growth fuelled hopes of much stronger numbers.
Miners Rio Tinto and BHP Billiton (NYSE: BBL - news) , which derive around a third of their revenue from China, fell 3.6 percent and each took over 5 points off the index, with Citi also downgrading their view on the sector.
The most dramatic fallers on the FTSE 100 were gold miners, with Randgold Resources and Fresnillo shedding in excess of 10 percent.
Gold prices have dropped to a two-year trough due to fears of central bank sales and less monetary stimulus which could reduce demand to hedge against inflation.
"The China data was a bit of a shock to the market, and that's sparked this wave of selling," Joe Rundle, head of trading at ETX Capital, said.
"The miners are taking the brunt of it, because you readacross from China the consumption of raw materials, and then gold is on the radar because it's entered a bear market. I think it's probably temporary, and I think this pullback is healthy."
Gold miners traded at 8.7 times their expected earnings for the next 12 months, a multi-year low, Thomson Reuters StarMine data showed.
The broader materials sector knocked 28 points off the FTSE 100, which was down 74.96 points, or 1.2 percent, at 6,309.43 points at 1032 GMT.
The blue chip index is 3.4 percent off five-year highs hit in early March, but just 1.6 percent higher than a three-month low of 6,214.36 hit earlier this month.
"The FTSE might push down to 6,250 if we have a really nasty week, but with decent support around the 6,200 level I don't think we'll get much lower than that," Rundle said.
Other stocks which rise and fall with optimism over the economy such as energy and financial stocks, also traded weaker. The Chinese data added to broader concerns about global economic growth after a batch of mixed data on the U.S. labour market and signs of a deepening recession in the euro zone.
Shares in defensive companies, that are seen as better suited to a low-growth environment, were the best performers on Monday, with utilities the only positive sector, managing to add 2 points to the FTSE.
"Traders speculate there is more to the appointment of Goldman Sachs than meets the eye. As recently as January, Goldman Sachs was said to be representing a consortium (GIP, OTPP and Borealis) interested in making a bid," Marc Kimsey, senior trader at Accendo Markets, said in a trading note.
"The weekend press stated the latest addition to United Utilities' team of advisors is to "strengthen defences" against a takeover. Or perhaps they've been appointed to facilitate?" (Editing by Catherine Evans)