US Steel's 3Q results expected to drop

PITTSBURGH -- United States Steel Corp.'s third-quarter results Tuesday should shed some light on the appetite for steel in the sluggish global economy.

WHAT TO WATCH FOR: The Pittsburgh manufacturer warned investors in late July that slower global growth could be a drag on third-quarter results.

Steel manufacturers have coped with anemic demand for much of the year because a number of key customers cut purchases, such as the construction industry. Globally, manufacturing has been weak as the economies of the U.S., China and some emerging countries grew more slowly and Europe's debt problems have put some countries in that region into recession.

Meanwhile, new production at U.S. steel plants along with imports have created plentiful supplies.

In this environment, U.S. Steel expects operating results to be positive for the July-through-September quarter but lower than the second quarter. Overall average prices also are expected to be lower.

JPMorgan analyst Michael F. Gambardella said demand deteriorated for flat-rolled steel, which is used in products such as automobiles and other transportation vehicles, construction and appliances. He predicted that both volumes and prices would be lower as a result.

U.S. Steel's European division was pressured by economic problems in the region but sales of steel pipes and other products to the energy industry should remain steady, Gambardella wrote in an Oct. 17 research note.

Shares of U.S. Steel fell 7.4 percent during the quarter, ending at $19.07 per share on Sept. 28. In the first nine months of the year, the price dropped nearly 28 percent.

WHY IT MATTERS: U.S. Steel, which is based in Pittsburgh, makes products used in various industries from construction and automobiles to appliances and pipes for the energy industry. The pace of economic growth can be gauged in part from the sales that it makes to its broad customer base.

WHAT'S EXPECTED: Analysts, on average, expect break-even results on a per-share basis and revenue of $4.64 billion, according to FactSet.

U.S. Steel has said it will take a pretax charge of about $35 million related to the financial impact of its new three-year contract with the United Steelworkers.

LAST QUARTER: U.S. Steel reported net income of $22 million, or 15 cents per share, in the third quarter of 2011. Revenue totaled $5.08 billion.