Once the financial world began to hold its collective breath as third-quarter earnings results approached, some pleasant surprises were bound to let them take in a little oxygen. And when finger-crossing investors scour the market for faint signs life within a struggling U.S. economy, it's wholly appropriate that a touch of welcome strength has come forth from gritty steelmaker Nucor
Nucor has already made it abundantly clear that it simply will not buckle under the pressure of a domestic economy that continues to cling to what CEO Dan DiMicco prophetically termed the "granddaddy of all jobless recoveries." The steelmaker's resilience is again in evidence with third-quarter earnings of $0.57 per share, beating consensus estimates by $0.03.
Operating at 74% of capacity during the period, Nucor leads a curious Fool to question whether the devastating sell-off that has plagued metallurgical coal and iron ore producers over recent months may represent a disconnect from apparently resilient levels of domestic steel demand. Although the weakness in Peabody Energy
If tempered expectations of stagnant-to-imperceptible growth are the new normal, then Nucor's market outlook epitomizes the trend. The company notes: "End markets such as automotive, heavy equipment, energy, and general manufacturing have continued to show the most strength compared to 2010 but have shown very little improvement compared to the first half of 2011." As conditions like this persist, I expect the obvious performance gap between Nucor and less desirable rival U.S. Steel