AK Steel shares trade lower, shipment volumes down

Shares of AK Steel Holding Corp. fell 4.6 percent Friday to $3.31, reflecting declines in steel production and excess market supply, an analyst said. The stock traded as low as $3.29 on Friday.

U.S. steel production year-to-date is down 7 percent compared to the same time last year, said Mark Parr, managing director, equity research analyst, for KeyBanc Capital Markets Inc. covering the metals industry.

“The market is concerned about the new flat-rolled stainless capacity that’s been brought online in Alabama,” Parr said, referencing a stainless steel manufacturing plant opening. “I think there also continues to be a fairly tepid flat-rolled (carbon) demand in the U.S.”

AK Steel officials don’t comment on stock prices.

AK Steel makes carbon, stainless and electrical steels that go in items such as automobiles, refrigerators and manufacturing equipment.

On Friday the Butler County steelmaker said it expects to have a net loss of between 9 cents to 13 cents per share this quarter, which ends March 31.

This represents “a significant improvement compared to the fourth quarter of 2012,” officials said in Friday’s release. For the fourth quarter, AK Steel reported a net loss of $230 million, or $1.89 per share.

AK Steel said it anticipates steel shipments to be approximately 1,275,000 to 1,300,000 tons this quarter, compared to shipments of 1,406,100 tons in the fourth quarter 2012.

“In AK’s release this morning they did indicate their volumes were a bit below their expections,” Parr said.

The company is seeing increased shipments to the automotive market. But AK Steel said it projects its first-quarter shipments to the spot market will fall from the prior quarter.

Also, AK Steel is seeing higher average selling prices primarily due to a higher-priced product mix compared to the previous quarter. Raw material costs are lower.

First-quarter earnings are scheduled for release April 23.

AK Steel is headquartered in West Chester Twp., operating seven steel plants including Middletown Works. It employs 2,400 full-time workers in Butler County.