A number of headwinds working against AK Steel Holding Corporation (NYSE:AKS) resulted in a big drop in earnings during the first quarter. Net sales rose slightly to $1.38 billion but outages and a legal settlement resulted in a net loss of $86.1 million, or $0.63, in the quarter.

Higher costs for everything from energy to iron ore affected margins in the first quarter and a 3% increase in sale prices weren't enough to overcome those costs.

A surprise profit in the fourth quarter gave investors some hope that operations could turn around and AK Steel could make a profit in 2014, but this is a rough start to the year. Unless costs come down significantly, it's questionable whether the company can break even this year or hit analysts' expected $0.07 per share earnings target.

Pricing and costs can be very volatile for AK Steel and until it proves the ability to make a profit long term this isn't a stock I'd be betting on, particularly as input costs are on the rise.

Travis Hoium has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.