Nucor Corporation NUE registered higher profits in first-quarter 2019. The steel giant delivered net earnings of $501.8 million or $1.63 per share, up from $354.2 million or $1.10 in the year-ago quarter.
Barring one-time items, adjusted earnings per share came in at $1.55, which beat the Zacks Consensus Estimate of $1.50.
Nucor recorded net sales of $6,096.6 million, up roughly 9.5% year over year. The figure also outpaced the Zacks Consensus Estimate of $6,034.1 million.
Nucor Corporation Price, Consensus and EPS Surprise
Nucor Corporation Price, Consensus and EPS Surprise | Nucor Corporation Quote
Total steel mills shipments in the quarter were 5,989,000 tons, down 4% year over year. Total tons shipped to outside customers fell 3% year over year to 6,767,000 tons. Average sales price improved 13% year over year.
Steel mill operating rates fell to 87% from 92% in the year-ago quarter.
Profitability in the steel mills segment fell sequentially in the first quarter, affected by lower average selling prices and margins for sheet products. Additionally, harsher winter conditions delayed shipments to certain construction customers of steel mills and steel products divisions.
Performance in the raw materials unit fell sequentially in the first quarter, primarily due to margin compression in DRI businesses. The business has been experiencing a fall in average selling prices since fourth-quarter 2018.
Nucor ended the first quarter with cash and cash equivalents of roughly $1.6 billion, up more than two-folds year over year. Long-term debt was $4,233.8 million, up roughly 30.6% year over year.
The company repurchased around 1.2 million shares during the reported quarter. As of Mar 30, 2019, the company had roughly 304,786,000 shares outstanding and around $1.4 billion available under its share repurchase program.
Nucor expects second-quarter 2019 earnings to be in line with first-quarter figure, barring the gain on the sale of the equity method investment.
The steel mills unit’s performance in the second quarter is expected to be consistent and in line with the first quarter. The company expects weakening margins for plate and sheet mill products to be offset by improving margins for bar and structural mill products.
Profitability of the company's steel products unit is forecast to improve considerably in the second quarter compared to the first quarter. Improved weather conditions and typical seasonal patterns are likely to benefit nonresidential construction markets.
Per the company, raw materials unit’s performance is likely to decline sequentially in the second quarter due to further margin compression in the DRI businesses.
Shares of Nucor have lost 8.4% in the past year compared with the industry’s 27.1% decline.
Zacks Rank & Key Picks
Nucor currently carries a Zacks Rank #3 (Hold).
Some better-ranked stocks in the basic materials space are Sandstorm Gold Ltd. SAND, Innospec Inc. IOSP and Fortescue Metals Group Ltd. FSUGY, each currently sporting a Zacks Rank #1 (Strong Buy). You can see the complete list of today’s Zacks #1 Rank stocks here.
Sandstorm Gold has an expected earnings growth rate of 200% for 2019. The company’s shares have gained 18% in the past year.
Innospec has an expected earnings growth rate of 3.5% for the current year. The company’s shares have improved 13.9% in a year’s time.
Fortescue Metals has an expected earnings growth rate of 101.5% for 2019. Its shares have surged 51.4% in a year’s time.
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