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The price of commodities such as copper have recently been on the decline. This article will analyze five companies that are involved in copper businesses, to see how they have been affected by declining prices and to determine if they would be good fits for your portfolio.

Freeport-McMoRan Copper & Gold (NYSE:FCX) FCX has a market cap of $32.24 billion with a price-to-earnings ratio of 5.8. The stock is trading in a 52-week range of $28.85 and $61.35. The stock is currently trading around $34. The company reported second quarter revenue of 5.8 billion compared with revenue of $4.2 billion in the second quarter of 2010. Second quarter net income was $1.3 billion compared with net income of $664 million in the second quarter of 2010.

One of FCX’s competitors is Newmont Mining Corporation (NYSE:NEM). NEM is currently trading around $63 with a market cap of $31.18 billion and a price-to-earnings ratio of 14.09. NEM pays a dividend with a 1.9% yield versus FCX, which has a dividend yield of 2.9%.

FCX is one of the world’s leading copper and gold mining companies. The company’s earnings have been trending upward, and in 2010 net income increased by 58% to $4.33 billion, from $2.74 billion in 2009. Year-over-year second quarter revenue increased by 37.7% while net income increased by 107%. As a result of the slowdown in the global economy, the price of copper has dropped significantly. This has hurt FCX’s stock price, which has dropped by 61.3% over the last three months. The stock’s current 5.8 price-to-earnings ratio seems cheap for a successful dividend paying company. However, I would wait to see the company’s third quarter earnings report before I would consider making a buy. I rate FCX as a hold.

Southern Copper Corporation (NYSE:SCCO) SCCO has a market cap of $22.06 billion with a price-to-earnings ratio of 11.12. The stock is trading in a 52-week range of $22.85 and $50.35. The current stock price is around $26. The company reported second quarter revenue of $1.8 billion compared with revenue of $1.1 billion in the second quarter of 2010. Second quarter net income was $658 million compared with net income of $313 million in the second quarter of 2010.

One of SCCO’s competitors is the privately held corporation Rio Tinto Limited.

SCCO has exhibited impressive earnings growth. The company increased 2010 earnings by 61.4% to $1.5 billion from $929 million in 2009. Year-over-year second quarter revenue increased by 63.6% while net income increased by 110%. SCCO like other copper miners has suffered as a result of a drop in copper prices. The 52-week stock price is down by 32.67%. The stock price is down by 31.6% over the last three months. The company pays a dividend of $2.48 with a yield of 9.2%, which makes the stock appear attractive at its current price, but I would wait to see the third quarter earnings reports before making a purchase. I rate SCCO a hold.

Sterlite Industries India (SLT) SLT has a market cap of $31.39 billion with a price-to-earnings ratio of 28.39. The stock has traded in a 52-week range of $8.46 and $17.39. The stock currently trades around $9.30. The company reported first quarter 2012 revenue for the period ending June 30, in the amount of $2.2 billion, compared with revenue of $1.3 billion for the first quarter of 2011. First quarter net income was $367 million compared with net income of $221 million in the first quarter of 2011.

One of Sterlite Industries competitors is the privately held corporation Hindalco Industries (OTC:HNDNF).

Sterlite like other copper miners has seen its earnings move in an upward trend. The company increased net 2011 annual income by 38.7%. Year-over-year first quarter revenue was up by 69% while first quarter net income was up by 66%. The stock of Sterlite like other copper mining companies has been hammered, because of the drop in copper prices. The stock price has decreased 61.7% over the last three months. Sterilte’s valuations (price to earnings 28.39/ price to book 3.66) are high for a copper mining company. Also, the dividend yields only 0.80%. I rate Sterlite a sell.

Lihua International Inc. (NASDAQ:LIWA) has a market cap of $130.09 billion with a price-to- earnings ratio of 2.82. The stock has traded in a 52-week range between $3.68 and $13.05. The stock is currently trading around $4.40. The company reported second quarter revenue of $1.08 billion compared with revenue of $515 million in the second quarter of 2010. Second quarter net income was $93 million compared with net income of $68 million in the second quarter of 2010.

One of Lihua’s competitors is Fushi Copperweld Inc. (NASDAQ:FSIN). FSIN is currently trading around $6 with a market cap of $232.28 million and a price-to-earnings ratio of 8.36. Neither company pays a dividend.

Lihua is a Chinese company that refines, produces and distributes copper products. Lihua has seen increasing earnings in each of the last four years. In 2010, the company increased net income by 176% to $260 million from $94 Million in 2009. Year-over-year second quarter revenue increased by 109% while net income increased by 36%. The stock has performed poorly and is down by 50.8% over the past 52 weeks, and 64.7% over the past three months. Lihua has very low valuations (price to earnings 2.82/price to book 0.67) despite the fact that the company has been consistently growing profits. This stock has potential, but I would not recommend buying it, until it breaks out of its downward trend. I rate Lihua a hold.

BHP Billiton Limited (NYSE:BHP) BHP has a market cap of $190.36 billion with a price-to- earnings ratio of 8.38. The stock has traded in a 52-week range of $62.54 and $104.59. The stock is currently trading around $72. The company reported revenue for the 2011 fiscal year ending June 30, of $72.5billion compared with revenue of $52.9 billion for the 2010 fiscal year. Net income for the 2011 fiscal year was $23.9 billion compared with net income of $12.7 for the 2010 fiscal year.

One of BHP’s competitors is Vale S. A. (NYSE:VALE). VALE is currently trading around $23 with a market cap of $121.9 billion and a price-to-earnings ratio of 5.2. VALE pays a dividend with a 2.5% yield versus BHP, which has a dividend that yields 3.1%.

BHP is a diversified natural resource company that is based in Melbourne, Australia. The stock price like those of most other natural resource companies has suffered in recent months. The stock price is down by 12.3% over the last 52 weeks and down by 33.4% over the last three months. The company is well established and has increased its net income from $5.8 billion in 2009 to $23 billion in 2011. In the fiscal year period ending June 30, the company increased revenue by 37% and net income by 88%. BHP is a highly successful well diversified company that should continue to be highly profitable. I believe that the recent drop in the stock price offers investors an excellent opportunity to purchase shares at an attractive price. I rate BHP a buy.

Disclosure: I have no positions in any stocks mentioned, and no plans to initiate any positions within the next 72 hours.

Source: The Best Copper Stock To Buy And 4 To Avoid