Sometimes the safest way to avoid disappointment is to lower your expectations.
I will spare you the vagaries of shrinking metal margins and the company's 1,400-basis-point reduction in mill capacity utilization (to just 54%), and focus instead upon what I consider the greatest gift that a company can offer investors as we head into 2010: well-informed market insight.
China was practically a one-horse show in 2009, injecting stability into a substantially paralyzed global economy. In the view of Commercial Metals' CEO, at least, that theme is set to continue for the year ahead:
China will be the catalyst in calendar 2010 with anticipated GDP growth between 9-10% and greater steel demand than in 2009; this most likely will exert upward pressure on both iron ore and scrap prices. The rest of Asia should follow China with anticipation of strong demand for scrap and billet export opportunities to the region. Australia should continue what is developing as a strong recovery.
With Asian steelmakers like POSCO
Echoing recent observations by fellow bellwethers Nucor
Digging deeper, the company offered something of a naughty list that outlines some persistent issues forestalling a domestic recovery. According to Commercial Metals, the principle obstacles to domestic recovery remain: impaired liquidity, high unemployment and the resulting drag upon commercial expansion, the budgetary woes that so many state governments now face, and "no effective stimulus for construction."
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Do you have a real feel for steel? Clear improvement from the worst levels to date is a welcome sight, but this Fool cautions against premature celebration. To keep track of the complex factors affecting domestic industries, join the free Motley Fool CAPS community and ask 145,000-plus fellow investors what their research suggests.
Fool contributor Christopher Barker is the Nat King of Coal and the wild boar of iron ore. He can be found blogging actively and acting Foolishly in the Motley Fool CAPS community under the user name TMFSinchiruna. He tweets. He owns shares of Vale. POSCO is a Motley Fool Income Investor recommendation. Try any of our Foolish newsletters today, free for 30 days. The Motley Fool has a stainless disclosure policy.