March 15 (Bloomberg) -- Contract iron ore prices may rise 65 percent this year amid stronger-than-expected demand from steel mills in China, according to JPMorgan Chase & Co.
The steelmakers may pay 159 cents a dry metric ton unit in the financial year beginning April 1, from 97 cents this year, JPMorgan analysts led by David George said in a March 12 report. That compares with their earlier forecast for a 20 percent gain.
Gains in contract prices will boost profits for Brazil's Vale SA, Rio Tinto Group and BHP Billiton Ltd., the world's three biggest iron-ore exporters, as demand increases following the easing of the global financial crisis. Royal Bank of Scotland Group Plc raised its 2010 earnings-per-share forecast for London-based Rio by 31 percent in a March 12 report after lifting its ore forecast last week.
"Chinese steel production has surprised post crisis and continues at a pace fast enough to drive up demand for steel raw materials, while the rest of the world is still in recovery mode," JPMorgan's George said in the report. He lifted his EPS forecast for Rio by 31 percent for this year and BHP's by 20 percent for the 2011 fiscal year.
Rio gained 0.8 percent to A$76.60 and BHP declined 1.3 percent to A$33.75 at 10:41 a.m. Sydney time on the Australian stock exchange.
ING Groep NV last week increased its estimate to an 80 percent gain in iron ore prices, from a previous estimate of 40 percent. RBS analysts led by Tim Huff increased their forecast to a 60 percent gain.