AK Steel expects 1Q loss as higher steel imports prompt lower shipments and higher prices

Economic Indicators Associated Press

Shares of AK Steel fell in premarket trading Friday after the company forecast a first-quarter loss because of lower-than-expected shipments and prices.

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The steel company blamed "unfairly traded imports" for an expected 14 percent reduction in shipments. It said excess global steelmaking capacity and continued challenging global economic conditions have resulted in a substantial increase in the level of steel imports into the U.S. A strengthening U.S. dollar also contributed to an increase in steel imports.

The West Chester, Ohio-based company expects a loss of between 23 cents and 28 cents per share, while analysts polled by FactSet expect a loss of 2 cents per share. Last year, the company reported a loss of 63 cents per share during the first quarter, citing higher energy costs and plant outages.

While the company expects lower raw material and energy costs during the quarter, those benefits will be outweighed by shipment volume and prices.

AK Steel and its competitors have been grappling with a market being flooded with steel exports from China. Charlotte, North Carolina-based Nucor Corp. lowered its earnings guidance Thursday, also citing a high level of steel imports pushing down prices.

Shares of AK Steel Holding Corp. fell 27 cents, or 6.4 percent, to $3.93 in premarket trading shortly before the market open.