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Recently, Vale S.A. (VALE - Analyst Report), a metals and mining company announced an encouraging production report for the fourth quarter 2012, including a record breaking iron ore performance.

Vale saw a year-over-year increase in production across some of its products including iron-ore, coal and phosphates in the fourth quarter 2012. However, production of other items like pellets, ferroalloys, manganese ore, nickel, copper, potash and nitrogen declined year over year during the period.  

This quarter also witnessed a record breaking fourth quarter performance for iron ore. Iron ore production grew 3.1% year over year and 1.9% sequentially. Usually, the iron ore production is the minimum in the fourth quarter of any year due to seasonality. This is the first time since 2003, that the company has seen positive sequential growth in the fourth quarter. Lower than expected rainfall and a significant contribution from N5 South mine in Carajás boosted production significantly.

In coal, production of metallurgical coal grew 25.3% in the fourth quarter, while thermal coal increased 10.8% year over year. This incredibly high rate of yield was a result of improved performance in the mines of Australia, especially in its Integra Coal mine.

Ferroalloys production suffered by as much as 44.6% year over year due to the closure of the European ferroalloys operations in October 2012. Copper and nickel declined by 4.6% and 6.6%, respectively, in the quarter due to a disruption of Sudbury mining operations.

Around two weeks ago, another natural resources company, BHP Billiton Plc. (BHP - Analyst Report), reported its modest production report for six months ending December 2012 with an increase in almost all of its business segments.

Vale is expected to announce its fourth quarter and 2012 results on Feb 11, 2013. The Zacks Consensus Estimate stands at 49 cents and $2.13 for the fourth quarter and 2012, respectively.

The stock currently holds a Zacks Rank #3 (Hold). Other stocks worth a look in the industry are Cliffs Natural Resources Inc. (CLF - Analyst Report) and MMX Mineracao E Metalicos SA ; each holding a Zacks Rank #2 (Buy).

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