U.S. Steel Earnings Fall

It earns 85 cents a share in the fourth quarter, including charges.
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U.S. Steel's

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fourth-quarter earnings fell 76% from a year ago as sales declined and its flat-rolled steel segment coped with higher input costs and a furnace outage.

U.S. Steel earned $109 million, or 85 cents a share, in the quarter, including charges that totaled 33 cents a share. It earned $451 million, or $3.46 a share, a year ago, including an 11-cent gain. Analysts were expecting earnings of $1.06 a share in the most recent quarter, according to Thomson First Call.

Sales fell 11% from a year ago to $3.47 billion, missing the consensus estimate of $3.51 billion. The company's cost of sales fell just 3% from a year ago, to $2.97 billion.

"Capital spending and repair and maintenance expenses were higher than anticipated primarily because we expanded the scope of work and experienced several delays related to the Gary No. 14 blast furnace project. We are proceeding through the start-up process and expect to be producing at full capacity of 9,200 tons of hot metal per day in a relatively short time," the company said.

U.S. Steel said its average price for flat-rolled steel was $597 a ton in the latest quarter compared with $623 a ton a year ago. Shipments fell 11% in the segment. The company predicted that flat-rolled shipments will improve sequentially in the first quarter as the Gary blast furnace is restarted, while prices hold steady.

"The first quarter of 2006 looks good for our domestic and European markets. Service center and end customer inventories are balanced and we expect continued strength in the energy markets served by our Tubular segment."