PITTSBURGH (AP) -- United States Steel Corp. on Tuesday said it lost money for the fourth consecutive quarter as improving demand in the auto industry was offset by the sluggish construction market.
The Pittsburgh manufacturing giant also said it was cautious about its outlook for the first quarter, noting that improving business conditions won't be reflected in operating results for another few months.
Shares of U.S. Steel fell $4.73, or 8.4 percent, to $51.50.
U.S. Steel's fourth-quarter loss was $267 million, or $1.86 per share, compared with earnings of $290 million, or $2.50 per share, during the same period last year.
Revenue declined 26 percent to $3.35 billion from $4.5 billion.
Analysts surveyed by Thomson Reuters had predicted a loss of $1.43 a share on revenue of $3.1 billion.
Steel manufacturers were battered during the recession as demand dried up for the metal used in automobiles, construction and consumer products. U.S. Steel said order rates from automakers, service centers and appliance customers in North America and Europe are near 12-month highs, while construction demand in North America remained soft.
The company cautioned that these signs of improvement won't be fully reflected in first-quarter operating results, which should show a loss "in line" with the fourth quarter.
U.S. Steel shipped 3.2 million tons of flat-rolled steel in the fourth quarter, an increase of 18 percent from the third quarter. Average realized prices rose 5 percent to $633 per net ton.
Shipments of pipe totaled 207,000 tons, an increase of 37 percent from the third quarter. Average realized prices dipped less than 1 percent to $1,462 per ton.
The benefits of higher prices were offset by increased raw materials costs, the company said.
KeyBanc analyst Mark L. Parr told clients in a research note that flat-rolled steel prices were below his expectations. Although the pipe business results were better than anticipated, he noted lower value welded pipe comprised a larger percentage of sales.
In the first quarter outlook, "expectations for improved steel pricing are being fully offset by ongoing cost pressures," he wrote.
For the year, U.S. Steel had a net loss of $1.4 billion, or $10.42 a share, compared with net income of $2.1 billion, or $17.96 a share in 2008.
Revenue fell 54 percent to $11.05 billion from $23.8 billion.