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Steel maker Nucor Corporation (NUE - Analyst Report) recently announced its fourth-quarter 2011 guidance, which is in the range of 22 cents to 27 cents a share. The company’s outlook included a one-time charge of 16 cents a share for last-in first-out (LIFO) accounting costs, which is an increase of 10 cents driven by increased scrap costs.

The earnings guidance represents an improvement over the fourth quarter of 2010 loss of $0.04 per diluted share, but a decrease from the third quarter of 2011 earnings of $0.57 per diluted share. Though the company anticipates sharp year-over-year increase in fourth-quarter profit, it will decrease sequentially from the third quarter, due to lower steel prices and metal margins amid increased imports that began in the second quarter.

Looking ahead to fiscal 2012, Nucor sees continued stability in order rates and pricing as it begins 2012, due to recent strengthening of raw material prices, continued low inventory levels held by customers and the normal seasonal improvement in order rates in the early part of the year.

The company further added that end markets such as automotive, heavy equipment, energy and general manufacturing have continued to experience some real demand improvement.

Meanwhile a few days back, Nucor boosted its regular quarterly cash dividend on common stock to $0.365 per share from $0.3625 per share, with the dividend payable on February 10, 2012 to stockholders of record as of December 30, 2011.

Nucor Corp. faces stiff competition from Commercial Metals Co. (CMC - Snapshot Report) and United States Steel Corp. (X - Analyst Report). We currently provide a long-term Neutral recommendation on the stock. The company has a Zacks #3 Rank (Hold).

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