What: Shares of United States Steel Corporation (NYSE:X) dropped as much as 15% today after the company reported weaker-than-expected third-quarter earnings.

So what: Sales plunged an incredible 38% to $2.83 billion, although net loss improved from $207 million a year ago to $173 million, or $1.18 per share. After adjusting for one-time items, the loss was $0.70 per share, which was still far greater than the $0.28 loss analysts expected.  

Now what: Like other commodity metal makers, United States Steel is blaming illegal imports for the drop in prices, which are driving the company's losses. Whether or not that's true, it's also the market reality for steel manufacturers today.

Management also said they didn't see improving conditions as they had expected in the second half of the year, leaving investors to wonder when a turnaround is in store. With so many unknowns ahead, I think this is a stock to avoid. Without a profit to fall back on, there's no telling where the bottom may be, leaving investors to try to catch a falling knife.

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.