Nucor projects lower-than-expected 1Q profit

Finished steel products sit in a warehouse at Nucor in Darlington. (AP/Morning News/File)

Steelmaker Nucor Corp. on Thursday projected a first-quarter profit well below current Wall Street predictions, saying that its mills haven’t gotten the seasonal boost that they typically do during the quarter.

For the quarter ending March 30, The Charlotte,-based company said it expects to post a profit of 20 cents to 25 cents per share. The prediction includes 3 cents per share in one-time charges, along with a non-cash gain of 4 cents per share.

Analysts, on average, expect a profit of 36 cents per share, according to FactSet.

Nucor has large steelmaking operation near Huger in Berkeley County.

Steelmakers have struggled in recent years, as weak economic conditions around the world have reduced demand for steel used in manufacturing and construction, resulting in lower prices. Earlier this year, Nucor said it expected its first quarter earnings to come in below its fourth-quarter 2012 profit of 43 cents per share.

The company said Thursday that as it expected, operating performance at its steel mills business has been flat compared with the fourth quarter of 2012, reflecting weaker sheet steel performance offset by better structural steel profitability.

Nucor said that overall, its steel mills haven’t experienced the seasonal improvement that’s typical of the first quarter. 

The company’s downstream steel products segment experienced a typical seasonal slowdown and as a result is expected to report a “modest loss.”  Meanwhile, the company’s raw materials business is also expected to report weaker results, partially as a result of an 18-day weather-related outage at one of its scrap facilities. 

Nucor added that it continues to be “cautiously optimistic” about improvements in commercial construction markets this year. 

Nucor shares fell 80 cents, or 1.7 percent, to $45.74 in morning trading. Its shares are still near the high end of their 52-week range of $34.23 to $48.60.