What happened 

Shares of Russian mining and steel company Mechel PAO (NYSE:MTL) rose as much as 13.6% in trading Thursday after reporting fourth-quarter earnings. At 12:40 p.m. EDT, shares were still up 12.8% on the day. 

So what

Revenue in the fourth quarter was up 20% to 79.7 billion rubles, operating profit jumped 20% to 13.9 billion rubles, and EBITDA was up 55% to 24.6 billion rubles. Management said that improving prices for coking coal that started mid-year was a big driver of results. Steel also improved slightly but was overshadowed by the increase in mining revenue and profitability. 

A steel mill shown during production.

Image source: Getty Images.

Management also said it put off maturity of the main portion of the company's debt until 2020, giving some breathing room for a recovery. 

Now what

The mining and metals business has been extremely volatile the last few years, but Mechel has begun to turn its operations around on the back of improving industry dynamics. What's challenging now is that the Chinese oversupply that led to low commodity prices in the first place are out of the company's control. It looks like the fiscal fourth-quarter's results were positive, but they could turn negative just as quickly, so buyers of this stock should beware. 

Travis Hoium has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.