CHARLOTTE, N.C. (TheStreet) -- Nucor (NUE) - Get Report, the steelmaker and scrap-metal recycler, said Tuesday that it projects a third-quarter loss of 15 cents to 20 cents a share.

Nucor blamed the red ink on pig-iron inventories purchased for a pretty penny before the financial bust last year. (Nucor uses pig iron at its mills to produce steel.) Working through this material will drag on the company's books by $180 million, or 37 cents a share, in the quarter, Nucor said.

Wall Street analysts were on average expecting a per-share loss of 2 cents.

"Importantly," Nucor said in a press release Tuesday morning, "we will complete consumption of the high-cost pig iron inventories by the close of the third quarter."

Nucor CEO Dan DiMicco issued some sobering words in the press release: "Our view remains that there has been little improvement in real demand and the uncertainty in our economy is still very high," he said, referring to a spike in operating rates at the company's steel mills in the third quarter. His words suggested that that jump was somewhat chimerical.

Not long after Tuesday's opening bell, Nucor shares were trading at $46.67, down 14 cents from the previous close.

-- Written by Scott Eden in New York

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Scott Eden has covered business -- both large and small -- for more than a decade. Prior to joining, he worked as a features reporter for Dealmaker and Trader Monthly magazines. Before that, he wrote for the Chicago Reader, that city's weekly paper. Early in his career, he was a staff reporter at the Dow Jones News Service. His reporting has appeared in The Wall Street Journal, Men's Journal, the St. Petersburg (Fla.) Times, and the Believer magazine, among other publications. He's also the author of Touchdown Jesus (Simon & Schuster, 2005), a nonfiction book about Notre Dame football fans and the business and politics of big-time college sports. He has degrees from Notre Dame and Washington University in St. Louis.