Did you hear that?
That was your venerable American steel industry striking the water after tumbling from an unfinished bridge.
After hailing Nucor
Nucor recorded a net loss of $133.3 million for the second quarter despite a $125 million credit from LIFO inventory accounting. A 16% decline in realized prices from the first quarter absorbed an 11% uptick in products shipped, and the continued impact of higher-cost pig iron inventories pressured margins further.
Nucor exhibits grace under pressure: refusing to lay off workers as rival U.S. Steel
DiMicco avows that "business conditions bottomed in April," but unlike the bottom called by railroad operator CSX
Although Nucor's average steel mill utilization rate increased just a touch, to 46% from 45% in the first quarter, the monthly average plunged to just 38% in April before reversing the downtrend and climbing to 54% in June.
In any major disruption to the balance of supply and demand, movements in either direction tend to overshoot the mark before restriking that balance. Like a diver entering the water, steel orders dipped to an April low before breaking back through the surface for air. Inventories were quite low, leading to a sudden uptick in orders, while the surface of the water (the new balance of supply and real demand) lies somewhere in that 45% to 50% range.
We have a bottom ... now what?
While reporting a $16 million loss for the quarter, Steel Dynamics lamented "conflicting signs in the economy." Nucor's DiMicco offered more color: "We continue to believe that real demand in the steel market is in for a long, slow recovery and there will likely be some bumps along the path." John Ferriola, Nucor's COO, added, "We see little indication that end-use demand has improved and expect no significant improvement for the rest of 2009."
Now that we're finally treading water, it looks as though we're still a long way from dry land.
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 no shares in the companies mentioned. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.