Citi analyst raises forecast for Freeport-McMoRan

NEW YORK (AP) — A Citigroup analyst on Monday raised his first-quarter estimate, rating and stock price target for Freeport-McMoRan Copper & Gold Inc., after the mining giant resolved key labor issues at its Indonesian operations.

ANALYST VIEW: Citigroup analyst Brian Yu forecast earnings of 84 cents per share compared with his previous estimate of 63 cents per share for the first three months of the year. Analysts surveyed by FactSet have predicted earnings of 85 cents per share for the Phoenix mining giant, on average.

In a research note to clients, Yu also raised his rating on the company to "Buy" from "Neutral" and upped his price target to $45 per share from $43 per share.

Freeport-McMoRan has underperformed because of labor issues at its Indonesian mine that appear to have been largely resolved, Yu told clients in a research note. The company also has been coping with ongoing concerns about an economic slowdown in China, which is a huge importer of copper.

He believes Freeport-McMoRan is one of the "higher-quality" copper mining companies because of its low net-cash cost position of $1.30 per pound this year and $1.19 per pound next year.

Freeport-McMoRan reports first-quarter earnings Thursday before the market opens.

THE STOCK: Shares of Freeport-McMoRan rose 21 cents to $37.15 in morning trading. The stock has traded between $28.85 per share and $56.78 per share in the past 52 weeks.