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Japan's Mitsui boosts profit forecast on higher iron ore, coal prices

TOKYO, Feb 2 (Reuters) - Japanese trading company Mitsui & Co Ltd on Friday said its April-December profits jumped over 60 percent from the year before and raised its full-year forecast to record levels, boosted by higher prices for iron ore and coking coal.

Mitsui is now forecasting a net profit of 440 billion yen ($4 billion), up from its previous guideline of 400 billion yen, beating a mean estimate of 407 billion yen among 10 analysts surveyed by Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

"Our results underlined strength in metal and energy assets as well as an advancement in our steel product, machinery and infrastructure operations," Mitsui Chief Financial Officer Keigo Matsubara told a news conference.

April-December net profit grew 64 percent to a record 376.8 billion yen.

Prices for iron ore for delivery to China's Qingdao port <.IO62-CNO=MB> had jumped more than 35 percent to around $79 a tonne by early January from an October-low of about $58, according to Metal Bulletin.

That was largely driven by tighter steel markets in China as the world's No.2 economy brought in winter production curbs to help clear its skies.

Meanwhile, Mitsui rival Itochu Corp reported a 19-percent increase in April-December profit to a record 357.1 billion yen. But it kept its full-year forecast of 400 billion yen unchanged, falling short of a mean estimate of 418 billion yen from 9 analysts.

"We are sticking to our full-year forecast for now," Chief Financial Officer Tsuyoshi Hachimura told a news conference.

Sojitz Corp boosted its net profit forecast for the year to March by 12 percent to 56 billion yen, citing higher-than-expected coal prices.

Mitsubishi Corp, Marubeni Corp and Sumitomo Corp will announce their earnings next week. ($1 = 109.7800 yen) (Reporting by Yuka Obayashi; Editing by Joseph Radford)