Pittsburgh-based United States Steel Corp. (NYSE:X) yesterday released a Q3 2013 earnings report that showed the steelmaker losing less money than feared, but booking less revenue than hoped -- and less than it took in last year to boot.

Revenues of $4.1 billion fell more than 4% short of the anticipated $4.3 billion, but the company's adjusted loss per share came to only $0.14, which was far less than the $0.43-per-share loss that Wall Street had expected. In a statement, CEO Mario Longhi emphasized the smaller-than-expected loss as being proof of "meaningful improvement in our Flat-rolled segment operating results."

Viewed another way, though, U.S. Steel performed much worse than the smallish loss suggests. As calculated under generally accepted accounting principles (GAAP), the company actually lost $12.38 per share -- roughly half its own market cap. The difference between the company's actual and its "adjusted" losses owed to a $1.8 billion non-cash charge taken for goodwill impairment.

As U.S. Steel said in a press release earlier in the month, its North American flat-rolled steel business and the unit of its tubular business dubbed "Texas Operations," which produces a significant portion of the company's welded tubular products, had essentially all of their goodwill value wiped out by the effects of a "protracted" economic downturn, excess capacity in the steel industry worldwide, and consequent pricing weakness from imported steel.

Investors appear to be accentuating the positive side of today's news, however, with the shares suffering no ill effects from the writedown -- just as they were unaffected by its initial announcement earlier this month.


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