Nucor Loss Lower Than Expected

Company expects return to profitability in second quarter.

Nucor Corp. posted a loss of $11.4 million, or 4 cents a share, in the fourth quarter, but the company expects to return to profitability in the fourth quarter, the company said Jan. 27.

The loss was down from net earnings of $58.9 million, or 18 cents per share, in the year-earlier period. The company expected a loss between 10 cents and 15 cents a share in previously released guidance.

Nucor reported 2010 full-year earnings of $134.1 million, or 42 cents per share, compared with a loss of $293.6 million, or 94 cents, in 2009.

Nucor expects higher steel product prices will have a positive impact on earnings and help the company return to profitability in the first quarter.

The company expects the momentum to continue into the second quarter but said it's "cautiously optimistic" regarding first-half results.

Nucor expects to continue grappling with volatile raw material costs during the first quarter.

"We believe end markets are experiencing some real demand improvement that will continue throughout 2011," the company said in a statement. "However, the improvement in operating rates that we will see in the first quarter of 2011 will be the result of a combination of both improving demand and steel buyers reacting to increasing raw material and steel prices. It remains to be seen how much of this improvement is due to real demand."

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