U.S. Steel

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posted a second-quarter loss after factoring in higher pension and health care costs, but excluding items, the results topped analysts' estimates.

The company lost $49 million, or 51 cents a share, in the second quarter. U.S. Steel recorded a charge of $52 million, or 50 cents a share, related to health care obligations.

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Before items, the company said it earned $3 million, or a penny a share. Analysts were expecting a loss of 6 cents a share. In the year-ago period, the company earned $27 million, or 28 cents a share.

A $29 million increase in domestic natural gas costs and higher outage spending also hurt the results in the second quarter of 2003.

Revenue rose to $2.36 billion from $1.81 billion last year, U.S. Steel said.

U.S. Steel acquired bankrupt steel maker National Steel in May for $850 million cash, but looking to the second half of the year, the company said it will take a pretax charge of about $500 million stemming from planned workforce reductions under a program for union employees.

Additionally, the company said third-quarter natural gas prices are expected to be slightly lower than the prices in the second quarter. Also, costs in the fourth quarter will be higher by about $35 million for several major planned outages.