What happened

Shares of steelmaking giant United States Steel Corporation (NYSE:X) erupted for nearly 16% gains soon after the market opened today, in response to the company's third-quarter 2017 earnings report, which crushed Wall Street expectations. Adjusted EPS for the most recent three-month period came in at $0.92, which was $0.21 higher than the average analyst estimate compiled by Yahoo! Finance. It was $0.11 higher than even the most bullish analyst's expectation.  

United States Steel Corporation also reported a 21% jump in revenue compared to the year-ago period, topping the average analyst estimate by $188 million. The news was enough to lift shares as they continue a relatively steady climb that began in May. Even so, recent stock prices still haven't surpassed the high-water mark set in February. (Shares fell sharply following a disastrous company update at the end of April.)

As of 12:34 p.m. EDT, the stock had settled to a 7.6% gain.

Toy construction workers and managers building successively larger columns out of coins.

Image source: Getty Images.

So what

Executives remained humble despite walloping Wall Street, saying the company's performance during the quarter was a little better than they expected, and simply added that the performance increased their confidence in the company's ability to hit 2020 targets for operational excellence. The third-quarter 2017 earnings rout could also be a sign that United States Steel Corporation can beat Wall Street expectations for full-year 2017 earnings. The company now expects adjusted earnings per share of $1.70 this year, which is ahead of the analyst average of $1.65.

The good news wasn't just contained to the income statement. The steel giant reported $299 million in operating cash flow for the quarter, thus more than doubling its year-to-date total, and ended September with $1.7 billion in cash on the balance sheet. If the return to profitability proves sustainable, and higher selling prices continue to hold for the foreseeable future, then Wall Street may be forced to revalue the $4.8 billion company.

Now what

The company is finally seeing the benefits of past cost-saving and efficiency efforts. Management is doing a pretty good job at influencing the factors within its control, and a recent surge in selling prices for various steel products has certainly helped provide a boost. Still, 2020 is a long way away. It will be interesting to see how Wall Street analysts adjust their view of the company in the next few weeks, especially concerning 2018 expectations. Today, investors can enjoy the fact that United States Steel Corporation is on track to meet its long-term goals.

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