PITTSBURGH (TheStreet) -- U.S. Steel (X) - Get United States Steel Corporation Report again posted a wider-than-expected loss in a muddy first quarter as the blast-furnace operator struggled to bounce back even with a spike in steel prices and a strengthening in demand.
The company said its first-quarter loss amounted to $86 million, or 60 cents a share, which included a huge foreign-currency gain of about $81 million. By stripping out the gain, the red ink swelled to $1.16 a share. Regardless of whether you included or excluded that gain, U.S. Steel's bottom line missed the Wall Street target by a wide margin. Analysts were expecting a loss of 36 cents a share.
Revenue matched the consensus forecast, coming in at $4.9 billion in the first quarter. A year earlier, U.S. Steel lost 73 cents a share on revenue of $3.9 billion.
Investors, though, appeared mostly to shrug off the bad miss as another example of how volatile U.S. Steel's results can be amid a recovery.
Shares of U.S. Steel were declining by 2.4% in early trades Tuesday to $50.57, down $1.24.
"While I wasn't expecting such a large loss this quarter, I find nothing in the results to be all that troubling," said Bridget Freas, an analyst at Morningstar, in an email. "The outlook is very strong for the second quarter and will likely reverse much, or perhaps all, of this loss."
Indeed, the company did signal to investors to expect a swing into positive territory in the second period. U.S. Steel boss John Surma said he expects the company to record a "significant overall operating profit" in the second quarter, as price hikes for its key flat-rolled steel products, which the industry as a whole have mounted since November, finally take hold.
Still, there were notes of caution. Surma said that order rates "remained firm throughout the first quarter" but have since "moderated." He added, "We remain cautiously optimistic that improving global economic conditions will continue, further stimulating end user demand."
One of the company's biggest end-markets -- automakers -- was disrupted by the Japanese earthquake and tsunami, but Surma said this likely wouldn't sting U.S. Steel in the long run. "We expect reductions in automotive production during the quarter to be made up in 2011 as vehicle inventories, presently low compared to historical levels, will need to be replenished," the CEO said.
U.S. Steel's smaller rival,
, also reported results Tuesday morning. The West Chester, Ohio, company went in the opposite direction, surprising Wall Street with a profit of 8 cents a share and giving investors reason to bid up its stock by about 4%.
went public with sanguine outlooks for the steel industry when they reported their first-quarter numbers.
-- Written by Scott Eden in New York
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