U.S. Steel ( X) returned to profit in the first quarter, easily beating analysts' expectations.

The company had net income of $58 million, or 47 cents a share, vs. a loss of $38 million, or 40 cents a share, a year ago. Analysts expected the company to earn 36 cents a share, according to Thomson First Call.

Revenue rose to $2.97 billion from $1.91 billion in the year-ago period. The company cited growing demand and higher prices as the quarter progressed, as well as cost-cutting efforts.

The Pittsburgh-based company Tuesday did not offer specific earnings guidance, but said: "The recent significant increases in domestic pricing will have a greater impact in the second quarter and contribute to improved profitability. We are seeing strong steel demand as virtually all domestic steel consumers continue to benefit from a stronger economy. In Europe, prices also continue to move higher as supply is tight and steel producers look to cover increasing raw material costs."

Shares rose 90 cents, or 2.5%, to $36.40 in early trading.

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