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AK Steel gives up Trump gains despite tariffs and Goldman believes the stock will fall further

Key Points
  • Goldman downgrades AK Steel shares to sell.
  • The firm cites competition within its automotive U.S. business.
  • "AK Steel shares are now trading below their level from early November 2016, having given back the gains made with the election of President Trump," Goldman analysts wrote.
Roger Newport, chief executive officer of AK Steel Holding Corp., listens during a press conference following a meeting with U.S. President Donald Trump and steel and aluminum executives at the White House in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Thursday, March 1, 2018.
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Profitability at parts of AK Steel remains limited, according to Goldman Sachs, despite support from President Donald Trump's aggressive tariffs on foreign steel.

The bank downgraded shares to sell from neutral on Wednesday citing increased competition within its core automotive U.S. business .

"AK Steel shares are now trading below their level from early November 2016, having given back the gains made with the election of President Trump in November 2016, the initial run-up of the current cycle in domestic steel prices starting in November 2017, and the Department of Commerce announcement in February 2018 of more stringent-than-expected recommended Section 232 remedies," Goldman analyst Matthew Korn wrote Tuesday.

"Now, with our updated estimates reflecting lower forecasts for realized pricing and profitability, the risk/reward for AK Steel looks unfavorable," he added.

Shares of AK Steel fell more than 2 percent in premarket trading following the Goldman Sachs note.

Shares of the nation's major steel producers have gyrated in recent months, rising and falling on the nuances of the Trump administration's pursuit of tariffs on imports of steel. The White House's decision to push back the tariff deadline in early May, for example, sent shares of rivals U.S. Steel and Nucor down 6 percent and 2 percent respectively.

Hoping to address creeping doubts over the future of the taxes, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said last week that U.S. tariffs on Chinese steel and aluminum imports – a key target of the original policy – will stay in place even as the administration suspends separate tariffs on Chinese goods.

"As it relates to China, the steel and aluminum tariffs will remain enforced," he said. "Those were not part of our discussions. We were merely focused on the proposed $150 billion."

"Those are not being touched," he added.

Notwithstanding the assurance from Mnuchin, AK Steel's stock price, which rallied more than 60 percent in the months immediately following President Trump's election, has tumbled back to their pre-election levels above $4.

With weaker-than-expected quarterly guidance on pricing and profits, Goldman Sachs believes the stocks could sink further.

Analyst Korn cut his 12-month price forecast for the company to $4 from $6, implying 9.5 percent downside from Tuesday's close.