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) -- Brazilian mega-miner


(VALE) - Get Vale SA Report

, the largest extractor of iron ore in the world, saw its shares rise 2% Friday morning after the company, as expected, released gangbuster fourth-quarter results.

Like most multinational miners this year, Vale has become a profit machine amid surging prices for mineral commodities, especially iron ore, coal and copper. Prices have largely been held aloft by China's voracious thirst for raw materials to feed its fast-growing economy.

Vale especially profits from trade with China. The steel mills of the People's Republic buy more of Brazil's super-high-grade iron ore, extracted from deep within the Amazon rain forest, than any other country.

Vale in its press release couldn't contain its triumphant glee. "Vale has best ever annual result," read the headline. "We are living through our best days," read the prepared statement from Vale's top boss, Roger Agnelli.

The Rio de Janerio-based company said it earned $6 billion in the final three months of 2010, quadruple its profit in the same period a year earlier. Vale's revenue came to a whopping $15.2 billion in the fourth quarter, up 133% from a year ago.

Not surprisingly, the company was bullish on 2011, just as its peers have been. "The world economy is accelerating faster than anticipated and 2011 is likely to be another year of growth above the long-term trend of 4% per annum," Vale said in its press release. China will fuel that growth, Vale said, notwithstanding the country's attempts to fight inflation, as well as several recent datapoints

that might suggest a near-term slowing

of China's importation of iron ore.

Vale also announced a plan to invest $24 billion in mine expansion in 2011, more than its Anglo-Australian rivals,

BHP Billiton

(BHP) - Get BHP Group Ltd. Report

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Rio Tinto

(RIO) - Get Rio Tinto Plc Report


That sort of capital expenditure by big mining multinationals has boosted the share price -- and earnings power -- of equipment makers, most especially


(CAT) - Get Caterpillar Inc. Report


The Peoria manufacturing giant, in the process of adding to its mining-gear lineup by subsuming


( BUCY), has lived on growing sales of its mining equipment even as the construction industry remains in neutral.

Shares of other metals giants were in the green in New York trading Friday. Both BHP and Rio Tinto were gaining about 2%, changing hands recently at $93.54 and $69.44, respectively.

Canada's Teck Resources was moving higher by 2.2% to $54.66, while copper giant Freeport McMoRan was adding 1.5% to $52.65.

Shares of

Cliffs Natural Resources

(CLF) - Get Cleveland-Cliffs Inc Report

, the U.S. iron ore miner, were gaining 1.6% to $94.85. Last week,

Cliffs' CEO Joseph Carrabba

also aired a bullish view of the iron ore market in 2011.

Commodities-linked equities

took a pounding earlier this week

as inflation fears swept the markets in the wake of spiking oil prices and the Middle Eastern uprisings. Some investors may have sensed a top among cyclical stocks that move alongside underlying commodities prices, especially metals and agricultural products.

On Friday, though, crude prices stabilized after Saudi Arabia boosted production, moves that doubtless helped support commodities-linked equities during the session.

-- Written by Scott Eden in New York


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