2. Vale (VALE): Vale, the world's largest producer of iron ore and second-biggest maker of nickel, is a top supplier to the volatile steel industry. Its biggest customer is China.
Last year, steel production declined sharply and sales fell 39% while earnings plummeted to 99 cents per share, from $2.58 in 2008.
But this year analysts are projecting a rebound, including a 63% increase in sales, to $39.8 billion, and earnings of $2.55 per share.Vale's cash flow grew at a compound annual growth rate of 35% from 2002 through 2009, and that pace is continuing this year. Shares have risen 9.7% so far this year, twice that of the mining industry peer group. Its price-to-earnings ratio is 17 versus its peers' 25.9, which suggests that shares are selling at a discount. Analysts' mean share price target over the next 12 months is $39, a 35% premium to its current price, but that will likely change because Vale announced a $2 billion share buyback program last week. Of analysts covering Vale, 21, or 84%, recommend buying its shares and four counsel holding them. None rate Vale "sell."
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