Management continued to achieve improved profitability as Nucor exceeded the mean analyst estimates on the top and bottom lines alike. Revenue climbed 14% to $3.15 billion in the second quarter, and net income grew about 28% for the quarter.
The nitty-gritty details of the second quarter aren't especially surprising. Average prices were 8% higher on an annual comparison but down 6% from the first quarter. Likewise, while shipments rose 5% compared with the year-ago period, they rose only 1% on a sequential basis. While energy costs continue to take a bite out of per-ton profitability (rising 8% sequentially), Nucor saw average scrap costs decrease about 10% sequentially.
One of the benefits of Nucor's model is that it's more leveraged to higher value-added steel products. Pricing for basic rolled steel has been weak, but pricing on more specialized forms, such as bars, joists, and beams, have held up better, and that has helped the company. Should commercial construction and civil-engineering activity pick up (as seemingly more and more people now expect), those products could see relatively stronger demand and pricing.
I expect that Nucor will continue to expand and advance product assets. Those products are more lucrative, and there's not quite such intense competition.
Interestingly, Nucor management seems to think that the inventory problems at many steel consumers are clearing up. That would be good news and should help stave off further significant price declines. That said, the company's relatively wide range of guidance for the next quarter ($1.60 to $1.80 a share) suggests to me that the market is still pretty volatile and difficult to predict.
Analysts and professional money managers are no longer expecting much from the steel industry. That's probably not a terribly erroneous view for the short term, but I'd argue that Nucor still has some promise for the long haul. Of course, when there are so many other stocks to choose from in the investor's universe, it's understandably hard to make a really aggressive case for owning a commodity company -- even if it is a high-quality one.
For more steely-eyed Takes:
Fool contributor Stephen Simpson has no financial interest in any stocks mentioned (that means he's neither long nor short the shares).