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Sector Snap: Steelmakers

NEW YORK (AP) -- Several steel companies reported better-than-expected results, although investors didn't reward them all the same.

Rising prices in North America for flat-rolled steel used in autos and some construction are expected to help steel companies. US Steel, for instance, cited expected higher prices in predicting better results for its flat-rolled steel segment. It said average prices for rolled steel rose 4 percent last year.

AK Steel's fourth quarter was better than expected by Citi analyst Brian Yu because of higher than expected selling prices and shipments. He wrote that the company had a "solid quarter with pricing coming better than guidance and shipments up 14 percent" compared to the third quarter.

AK Steel had the biggest gains of the four steelmakers reporting results. Its stock rose $1.02, or 17.2 percent, to $7.02 in afternoon trading.

But US Steel fell 55 cents, or 2.2 percent, to $24.89. Jefferies analyst Luke Folta commended US Steel for a "strong performance" in the fourth quarter, but wrote that its implied guidance for the first quarter "falls well short of our estimate and we continue to be cautious on the shares." He said other steelmakers — specifically, Nucor and Commercial Metals Co. — will benefit more directly from an impending recovery in non-residential construction this year and beyond.

Yu said Nucor is predicting some improvement in steelmaking margins for the quarter. Nucor shares were up 30 cents at $48.72 in afternoon trading. Another steel company, Commercial Metals rose 8 cents to $18.71.

Steel Dynamics had better-than-expected results from steel, although it was hurt by losses in its Mesabi Nugget recycling segment. Its fourth-quarter shipments "continue to point toward strong steel demand; however, Mesabi Nugget losses remain a headwind," Yu wrote. "We were expecting losses to subside in 2014 but that does not appear to be the case thus far."

Steel Dynamics shares rose 3 cents to $16.50 in afternoon trading.