Shares of Allegheny Technologies ( ATI) tumbled 18% Wednesday after the Pittsburgh alloy smithery made some gloomy predictions amid its latest earnings report.

The company said its bottom line in the upcoming third quarter will come in "at or near breakeven," a locution that would appear to suggest that it's looking at another possible period of red ink on its books. That would represent a bad shortfall on expectations.

Analysts had a consensus per-share estimate of a 24-cent profit.

Allegheny added that "while we see some signs of stabilization in a few markets, in general, demand remains low, the pricing environment is challenging, and visibility is low."

Demand for the company's high-performance metal alloy products -- used in a diverse range of machines and tools for all kinds of industrial production -- has obviously fallen off sharply during the recession, with manufacturers still shuttering plants ( see Caterpillar ( CAT), for instance), let alone adding to capacity that would create demand for Allegheny.

For its second quarter, the company reported on Wednesday morning a loss of $13.4 million, or 14 cents a share. Excluding charges for paying down debt and a tax penalty associated with contributing $350 million to the company pension plan, Allegheny said it was in the black -- though just barely -- earning $3.6 million, or three cents a share, equaling analysts' estimates.

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