What: Cliffs Natural Resources (NYSE:CLF) fell just over 38% in September after posting a nearly 60% or so gain in August, with the share price ending the two-month period at pretty much the same place at which it started the span.
So what? When a beaten-down stock advances the way in which Cliffs' shares did in August, you have to wonder if it's just another trading anomoly or if there's something real driving the abrupt price turn. For Cliffs, it was a mixed picture. On the positive side of things, it has been able to cut expenses and, perhaps more important, managed to find a buyer for some of its coal assets. On the negative side, iron ore prices remain weak -- selling iron ore is its core business.
Adding to that issue is the ongoing steel import problem that's hampering U.S. steel giants. North American mills are Cliffs' largest customers. So not only are iron ore prices weak around the world, but Cliffs' core market is also under additional strain. In other words, despite the positives, there's still a lot of bad stuff going on that this iron-ore miner has to deal with. And after a little euphoria, investors are clearly seeing the negative side of things again.
Now what? Cliffs still has a long way to go before it's back on stable footing. It's doing the right things to get there, including paying down debt and selling non-core assets, but it's a process that won't be completed in one month or, perhaps, even in a year or two. Only aggressive investors should be looking at this iron ore player and its turnaround efforts. That's not to say it won't succeed or that Cliffs is a bad company -- only that there's a lot of risk involved with the effort and that volatility like we've seen over the past couple of months is the new normal here.